Manchester United: Who Are the Reserves José Mourinho Plans to Play Against Crystal Palace?

Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe, right.
Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe at Emirates Stadium, London, May 7. Tuanzebe could feature in a much-changed United lineup Sunday against Crystal Palace. John Sibley/Reuters

It may be an almost-unrecognizable Manchester United that lines up against Crystal Palace on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday.

With the Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm next Wednesday that will decide whether or not United participates in the Champions League next season, manager José Mourinho has been bemoaning the fixture schedule.

Mourinho has gradually given first-team experience to several prospects from United’s youth set-up this season but Sunday could be the starkest example yet. Following United’s 0-0 draw with Southampton on England’s south coast on Wednesday, the Portuguese manager name-checked six reserve-team players he could use at Old Trafford Sunday as his stars rest up for a European showdown.

Demetri Mitchell

The 20-year-old is a winger who was first named in United’s first-team squad for the defeat at Arsenal on May 7.

Mitchell is predominantly left-footed and excels at beating opposing defenders, often with a sharp turn of pace. A former England Schoolboy, he was an unused substitute during United’s 0-0 draw with Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday.

Scott McTominay

Born in Lancaster, in England’s northwest, McTominay may end up as a Scotland international after reportedly catching the eye of England’s Under-21 coach Scott Gemmill.

McTominay, 20, can play in midfield or attack. At six feet four inches, he is unusually tall for a creative midfielder though his size allows him the welcome midfield function of breaking up play.

He has been with United throughout his youth career, since the age of five. McTominay was on the bench for United’s 1-1 draw with Swansea City on April 30 and made his debut as a substitute against Southampton.

Axel Tuanzebe

Perhaps the most advanced of United’s current crop of youth prospects. Tuanzebe, 19, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a center back who made his competitive first-team debut for the club in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic in January.

Tuanzebe can play right back, too, which was where he played on his Premier League debut in the Arsenal defeat at the start of May.

Coincidentally, Tuanzebe’s first appearance for United’s first team, in July 2016 in what was also Mourinho’s first game in charge of the club. Mourinho certainly seemed impressed. "With Axel, ten minutes is enough,” Mourinho said having watched him play just eight minutes. “The potential is there, you see it immediately.

"You [journalists] know him better than me because you know him for a few years but if anyone sees him for the first time, ten minutes is enough to see the potential."

Matty Willock

Born in Waltham Forest, northeast London, the 20-year-old was first named in Mourinho’s first-team squad for the 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on April 1—the scene of the Portuguese manager’s infamously tetchy response to BBC reporter Conor McNamara, who suggested the game had been an even one.

The midfielder also traveled with United’s squad to north London for the Tottenham Hotspur defeat. He has already endeared himself to the club’s supporters this season by scoring the winning goal against bitter rival Liverpool for the reserves.

Josh Harrop

Harrop picked an opportune time to score a hattrick on Monday, as United’s reserve side defeated Tottenham at Old Trafford.

Mourinho was watching on and Harrop’s performance must have had an effect on him. The 21-year-old from Stockport near Manchester is the reserves’ top scorer this season, a year after he missed significant periods of time through injury.

The skilful attacking midfielder has also made three appearances for England’s Under-20 side.

Zachary Dearnley

Sheffield-born Dearnley, 18, came on as a substitute during the reserves’ victory over Tottenham. The youngest of the tyros Mourinho could choose from Sunday, Dearnley can play as a central attacking midfielder or on the flanks.

Should Dearnley receive first-team action against Palace it would cap a remarkable ascent, as he remains inexperienced even at reserve level. Most of his football this season has come with United’s Under-18s.