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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Jose Mourinho impressed with 'talent' of Tahith Chong as Manchester United draw with Club America

The United youngsters take centre stage in first game of United States pre-season tour as Juan Mata equaliser earns 1-1 result in Arizona

Jose Mourinho took the positives from Manchester United's draw with Club America. EPA
Jose Mourinho took the positives from Manchester United's draw with Club America. EPA

Jose Mourinho was encouraged by the performances of some of Manchester United's young prospects as they drew their opening pre-season game 1-1 against Mexican giants Club America in a half-full stadium in Phoenix, Arizona.

Missing 11 of their squad who are recovering from their exertions at the World Cup, Mourinho fielded the most experienced side available, with Demetri Mitchell, 21, and just one United first team game to his name, the most inexperienced.

Young substitutes were introduced in the second half including Mason Greenwood, 16 and Angel Gomes, 17.

Another substitute, Tahith Chong, 18, excelled and set up Juan Mata’s 78th minute equaliser with a fine cross after Henry Martin had given America a second half lead.

“I have plans to make him (Chong) train the most possible times with us because that increases his evolution, but he has to play where he belongs,” said Mourinho.

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“He has to play in the academy and develop physically because physically is where he is not ready. Technically he is very good, tactically he understands the game and he understands his position, but by the physical point of view, when the game gets into contact situations he is in trouble, he is fragile, he is still a kid.

"But the talent is there, the personality is there, the passion to play, the humility to learn, so this is a fantastic experience for him.

“If he can play like today, 20 or 25 minutes in every one of these five (tour) matches and if during the season he trains with us and has a couple of occasions to play minutes with us; I don’t know, depends some cup matches. He is one of the good kids we have, it is not for today but for the tomorrow he is a good kid.”

Chong was born in the Dutch Caribbean and arrived via the Netherlands. Mitchell grew up a mile from Old Trafford and, despite both his parents – a postman and a schoolteacher - supporting Manchester City, chose to support United.

“My friends at school were all red and Ryan Giggs was my hero, then Patrice Evra,” says Mitchell. “I was training with both United and City but choose to play United because I preferred the training. There was more emphasis on dribbling and developing skills.

“As I progressed, (coach) Nicky Butt was really good influence. He told me that I could become a really good left back at the top-level. He said I could be like Ashley Cole or Evra. He told me to watch other left-backs. I watch Marcelo, he’s one of my idols.”

Mitchell made his United debut in the final game of the 2016-17 season, then spent part of last season with a successful loan at Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

“Hearts was great for me aside from a small injury,” he said. “The football wasn’t physical, but it was aggressive. Everyone was in your face and you have to be quick. You have to be ready. You can’t make mistakes when every point matters.”

On Thursday, the former student of Stretford High School played 60 minutes against Club America before being replaced by Matteo Darmian.

“It was a great experience for me to play on the left and link up with Anthony Martial and Luke on the left wing,” Mitchell said. “It was good for the other young players too.

"Angel did well for the under 18s last season. Chong is so direct and dynamic. He can play left or right side. He’s slight but strong. He’s a nice guy too. He had to stand up and sing a song in front of all the players the other night. He sang Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.”

Wearing the uncustomary black shorts and red socks of the new home kit, Mourinho was happy with the game being “a good training session for us and for them. They (Club America) start the league this week so they are in a more advanced stage than we are but for them was a good training.”

It was no thriller and despite ticket prices being reduced in comparison with previous seasons, the 37,766 crowd looked sparse in the 65,000 capacity venue. This is the fourth time United have visited the US in the last five years

Mitchell, an under 20 England international, has one year left on his Old Trafford contract and the club must decide whether to sell him now, offer him a new contract or loan him out for another season and risk losing him for free.

Derby County, managed by Frank Lampard, are one of several suitors.

“I don’t want to look too far into the future,” he said. “I want to play as much as I can on this tour, impress the manager and show what I can do. The manager will decide if I stay or go on loan, but whatever happens you’ll see a good season from me.”

United next game is on Sunday in San Jose, when Alexis Sanchez will play after obtaining an US visa.