When we think of club legend Roy Keane, there are 3 things that immediately come to mind. A leader, a fighter and a tough tackler. The man, in the middle of the park was immense and became one of the most influential players on the pitch, so can 19 year old youth starlet, Ben Pearson follow in his footsteps at Manchester United.
He along side Paul Scholes, formed one of the best midfield partnerships the Premiership has ever seen. Scholes was the man who ran the show using his feet from the midfield. His spectacular passing, grace and composure on the ball is unrivaled by any player to wear a Red Shirt in recent memory.
Alongside him was Roy Keane. A man who during his 12 years at the club cemented his place in United folk lore. He wore the Captains armband with passion and lead the team through example. His reading of the game and his ability to break up play was central to United’s success.
It was in my opinion Roy Keane’s most important performance over his 12 years at Manchester United. It was the 1999 Champions League Semi-Final and United were on-route to a Historic Treble, however they were up against Italian powerhouse Juventus who had French maestro Zidane in their midfield and one of the best out and out strikers to grace the game, Inzaghi.
In the 11th minute of what could possibly be the most important game of his career, he was booked, which meant he would be unable to represent Manchester United in the final. Heartbreaking. That’s what it would have been for many however for Keane it looked like it served as further motivation. He fought through the 90 minutes with more grit and determination than ever. After watching the whole game recently, I could feel his passion transcending into the other players across the pitch. Without him, I don’t think we would have reached the final against Juventus and Zidane and Inzhagi. It was his finest hour and gritty performances like those from an individual are something we have been missing recently, specially in the middle of the park. However recently Manchester United youth starlet Ben Pearson has shown he has the potential, to be our next Roy Keane.
Pearson is a 19 year old English midfielder and although he may not posses the flair of a more attacking midfielder like Andreas Pereira (another youth star) he certainly looks a tantalizing prospect. He tends to sit back in midfield acting as a deep-lying play maker spreading play and controlling the tempo of the game, however one of my favourite aspects of his play is that he is not afraid to make a tackle. He described one of his greatest qualities is being able to break up play.
“Most of my game is really about tackling and breaking up the play. The club have been really good to me. I’ve been here since I was a kid really and am just doing the best I can to get this far.”
Like Keane, Pearson is not afraid to get ‘stuck in’ and is always at hand to stop play when the opposition look dangerous, be it from a successful tackle or a foul. He gets the dirty work done. This is something Manchester United have been lacking in their midfield. Despite Fellani showing signs of being able to do this, the jury is still out on him, as he needs to pull out several consistent sharp performances to justify his £27.5 million price tag.
Pearson has also been brought up the Manchester United way, as he has been with the club since 2004, and has progressed through the ranks at Old Trafford, to the point where he is playing with the U21 side at 19. This shows how highly he is rated by U21 manager, Warren Joyce.
U18 manager Paul McGuinness had this to say about Ben, “Ben’s been outstanding,” said McGuinness when losing the key man to the older age-group when signing professional terms. “He’s an outstanding passer of the ball, a combination player and a good playmaker and link player in midfield. We’d like him to get forward and make more forward runs but sometimes the personnel we had meant he had to play in more of a holding role. But he’s also got the ability to snuff out danger and he’s very quick over 10-15 yards.”
High praise indeed for the 2012/13 Jimmy Murphy Young Player Of The Year. An award previously won by club legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. However the young midfielder is well deserving of the praise as he battled a bad bout of glandular fever during 2011/12 to achieve this award. His fantastic displays during the 2012/13 season also earned him not only a cap for the England U18’s, it also earned him the captains armband. The boy from Oldham must have obviously impressed as he has now progressed through the International ranks, now currently playing for the U19’s.
As he continues to impress both at club and international level, his chance of a first team call-up for Manchester United is surely on the rise. He has shown he has the potential to fill the large boots of Roy Keane however his game is far from perfect. Much like his inspiration Paul Scholes he can tend to fly into tackles a bit too readily which can end in a red card, which it did vs Real Sociedad, as the video shows above. Another aspect of his game he needs to work on is his goal scoring. Despite scoring 2 goals for England U19’s this season, Pearson still needs to work on his ability to find the back of the net as that could be the difference between a call-up to the first team or another game in the U21 Premier League.
I would like to wish Best Of Luck To Ben and I really do hope that in the next couple of seasons he gets the chance at the first team he deserves!