The future looks bright. Soon, Old Trafford will return to its glory days.
Although James Garner, Alejandro Garnacho, and Hannibal Mejbri have garnered a lot of attention and excitement, Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal have emerged as the two young players who have most impressed on Manchester United‘s preseason trip.
In reality, Garner has been forced to watch from the sidelines out of frustration due to an injury, but Savage and Iqbal have taken advantage of both his absence and United’s prolonged wait for midfield reinforcements in the transfer window with mature performances in the matches against Liverpool and Melbourne Victory, as well as in training.
In the closing 30 minutes of United‘s 4-0 victory over Liverpool in Bangkok, Jurgen Klopp might have easily overawed the pair of 19-year-olds, but Savage and Iqbal showed no sign of fear. Savage even pulled off a Maradona-like spin at one point on the edge of his own penalty area to casually twist away from Mohamed Salah who was attempting to close him down.
It was a display of talent and poise in a tense circumstance that no doubt delighted manager Erik ten Hag and elicited a humorous comment on Twitter from his father, Robbie, the former Blackburn and Wales midfielder:
“Who did you get that from? Finally a savage that can play.”
Savage, who is left-footed and possesses a broad range of passing and superb ball control, has fit in nicely with the easy-moving team. Iqbal’s fast feet allow him to dribble and play between the lines. They are best friends, and their synergy is evident on the field. They also demonstrate where hard work can lead.
During the pandemic, Savage had the family home’s garage converted into a gym, which he outfitted himself, and even during his summer vacation, he was out doing fitness and one-on-one work at Macclesfield FC’s Leasing.com Stadium, where his father is director of football. Some first-team players have struggled to keep up with him in training because he is naturally fit and a good runner.
Ten Hag places a high value on character and work ethic, which is why Savage and Iqbal have endeared themselves to the Dutchman, while on the pitch, their ability to keep and circulate the ball well in pressure situations aligns with what the manager expects from his midfielders.
Iqbal, the first British-Asian player for United, is a bright, confident, and grounded individual who made his senior debut for Iraq in January. He is aware that he has become a posterboy for a new generation of football fans.
It would be interesting to see if Ten Hag retains them around the team for the upcoming season or if they go out on loan. Additionally, they might play for United for a portion of the upcoming campaign with the intention of going on loan elsewhere in January. The new manager has a favorable initial impression of both.