Although Manchester United’s Under-19s slumped to a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen yesterday, there were a lot of positives that could be taken from the game, not least the performance of Ben Pearson.
The 18-year-old midfielder has many strings to his bow. He’s equally comfortable sitting back protecting the back four as he is powering forward and grabbing a goal. He has all the hallmarks of a top box-to-box midfielder.
He has a wide range of passing, from the simple to the sublime, which has seen him likened to United legend Paul Scholes. However, unlike Scholes, Pearson has the ability to tackle which coupled, with his movement and ability to read the game, generally means that he wins the ball and the possession.
When the going got tough yesterday after Grimshaw was sent off, Pearson stepped up. He popped up all over the pitch, generally in the parts where United needed a player most. Throughout the match, he covered both right and left back positions and frequently could be seen in a central defensive role.
He made crucial interceptions and showed up at the right place at the right time. His awareness meant that on occasions when an attack would break down due to interceptions by Leverkusen players, that he was there to take control and keep the forward momentum going.
It’s been a tough season for the midfielder and his colleagues who were promoted from the Under-18s last season with chances at Under-21 level being few and far between for them. Pearson, last season’s Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year, has himself has only played one minute of Under-21s football.
Here’s hoping he gets more opportunities at Under-21 level (and maybe higher) because he’s the type of player who’ll grab those chances with both hands and take it in his stride.