Manchester United could include surprise names in next season’s squad

Manchester United fans should be getting used to Jose Mourinho’s surprises.

Last August, few would have predicted Bastian Schweinsteiger to turn out at Old Trafford again. Even as recently as March, few would have predicted Josh Harrop to score on his first team debut by the end of the season.

Several journalists are likely to have received calls from their sub editors in May to confirm the correct spelling of ‘Zak’ after Mourinho namechecked the teenage Dearnley at a press conference, and the player himself could hardly have expected such a rapid promotion from the u18s to the United first team bench.

There are multiple indications that next term could include similar surprise inclusions.

Rather than take a large group of youngsters on the first team pre-season tour to pad out his squad, Mourinho has handpicked a chosen few, while the rest are with new u23 coach Ricky Sbragia.

And that says much about the standing of those who are currently sweating it out in LA.

Demetri Mitchell has spent the majority of his life as a left winger, but was converted to full back under the tutelage of Warren Joyce and Nicky Butt last season.

It could have been the making of Mitchell, who was nominated for the Denzeil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award and made his debut against Crystal Palace.

Going forward, he also has a big chance to impress Mourinho on tour and crowbar his way into the Old Trafford dressing room as back up to Luke Shaw.

While Shaw will be given the chance to make the role his own, he has had problems with injuries and none of Mourinho’s other options are genuine left backs.

Marcos Rojo, currently injured, has performed best at centre back, Daley Blind stuttered on the left before ending the season strongly in the middle, while Matteo Darmian’s favoured position is right back.

While there is quantity in the competition, the quality is not as high as some of his Reserve teammates will have to surpass to win their own opportunities.

Joel Pereira, for example, has to oust one of the best goalkeepers in the world, David De Gea, at a position which incurs fewer injuries and traditionally undergoes less rotation.

But Mourinho has already said that he will rotate all three of his keepers, including Pereira and Sergio Romero, every 45 minutes while on tour.

Pereira will feature for 90 minutes across the friendly fixtures with LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, and it is a chance to further elevate his standing with Mourinho, who has described him as potentially the best Portuguese keeper of his generation.

The United manager’s faith in Romero in the Europa League last season showed he is willing to rotate, and Pereira deserves a reward for reportedly turning down the chance to sign for Benfica to extend his United contract.

A start or two in the domestic cups should beckon.

While both Mitchell and Pereira are in the USA, a third potential surprise is doing his pre-season work in Austria.

Angel Gomes, who made history when he replaced Wayne Rooney against Crystal Palace, is with Sbragia’s group – a nod to the fact he does not turn 17 until the end of August and was playing Academy football last term.

But his debut shows he is very much on Mourinho’s radar, and he is a talent that has excited United staff for several years. The sight of him training with the first team at Carrington in the coming months would not be a shock – nor would further bench spots in the League and FA Cup.

Mourinho’s squad selections last season proved he isn’t afraid to defy expectations.

The next generation will be hoping that continues.