THERE'S a buzz around Manchester United's Carrington training ground, and that's not just because the club look like they're heading in the right direction.
A steady crop of exciting youngsters are beginning to take centre stage under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as the Norwegian promised in his mandate when he first took the job.
And joining a stream of talent that includes the likes of Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, and Tahith Chong is a centre half quicker than all of them.
Teden Mengi, 18, found himself training with the senior squad alongside United luminaries Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, who themselves made the leap from youth to first team last year.
Better still, he left an impression on Solskjaer by recording the fourth fastest running speed in the whole squad.
In January, he joined United legend Wayne Rooney at Derby County in a loan deal to gain much-needed game experience, and fans lauded his performance in a 0-0 draw against playoff hopefuls Barnsley.
And he has been handed a new three-year contract – with a bright future predicted.
A late bloomer, Mengi, who has Angolan citizenship, only joined United in 2018.
But he quickly seized his opportunity in the U16's, and was promoted to the U18 team – playing 21 times in the 2018-19 season.
Mengi formed an impressive partnership with Di’Shon Bernard, who made his debut against Astana last season in the Europa League.
He was rewarded with the captaincy for the U18's last season and helped his team march to the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup, and has enjoyed run outs with the U23's.
'TOOK HIS CHANCE'
Eager to impress U23 boss Neil Wood, Mengi didn't put a foot wrong when he was handed his opportunity to play at a higher level.
Wood is adamant he can follow recent graduate, and fellow defender, Williams into the first team.
“He came up to us quite early on in the season and, a bit like Brandon [Williams] in a sense, he came from the Under-18s and took his chance,” Wood told MEN.
“He played really well and he kept his place in the team.
“And when he dropped back down at the end of the (last) season to lead the Youth Cup team, he put in some excellent performances there.
“We'll be looking to work with him next season and he's one we want to 'do a Brandon' with, push him on and the goal is to try and get him pushed up into that first team if we can.”
United are rumoured to be after a new centre-back this summer with Kalidou Koulibaly, Valladolid star Mohammed Salisu linked and Sevilla's Jules Kounde.
But they could do far wrong by promoting from within and giving Mengi his chance, given budgets will be slashed with the coronavirus pandemic affecting the club's finances.
And they would have a quicker centre half in their ranks than first team stars Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
In measurements taken of the squad's individual workouts during football's shutdown, Mengi is said to have clocked the fourth-fastest running speed at the entire club.
Only Jesse Lingard, Axel Tuanzebe and first-placed Daniel James reportedly recorded a quicker pace than the teenager.
Mengi has appeared once for United – coming on as an 84th-minute substitute for Timothy Fosu-Mensah in a UEFA Europa League match against LASK.
His attributes include his composure on the ball, a skill that every modern defender needs, as well as his strength.
While he won't be putting on a United jersey again this season, we'll certainly see more of him next campaign.
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