Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer values the club’s academy and has already promoted a number of young players to his first-team squad.
When asked to name a player who epitomised the Manchester United winning mentality under Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s hard to look past Gary Neville.
The former United captain was, by his own admission, not one of the most naturally gifted players that featured in Ferguson’s iconic United sides.
But it was his ‘win at all costs’ attitude that made him so difficult to play against and, more importantly, one of the most decorated players the club has ever had.
And in the club’s most unlikely breakthrough star of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has uncovered a talent that shares a similar ruthless edge.
Brandon Williams wasn’t named in Solskjaer’s 28-man pre-season squad which travelled to Australia and the Far East in July.
Instead, fellow academy stars Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, and Angel Gomes all took their chances to impress in warm up games against Perth Glory, Leeds United, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.
But it’s Crumpsall-born Williams who has played more minutes than any other United teenager under the Norwegian this term.
Williams capitalised on Luke Shaw’s problems with injury in the early stages of the season and hasn’t looked back since.
The 19-year-old was handed his first-team opportunity in a third round Carabao Cup tie against Rochdale in September, replacing Phil Jones from the bench.
In a far from vintage night at Old Trafford, Williams’ debut represented the main positive. A series of marauding runs down the left-flank gave fans a glimpse of the attacking intent they had been missing.
By the time he earned the man of the match award on his Premier League debut against Brighton, Williams had already become a fan favourite for the courage and commitment he brought to the team.
He has gone on to make 24 senior appearances in all competitions, firmly establishing himself as a regular in Solskjaer’s squad.
Comparisons with Solskjaer’s ex-teammate Neville have already been made by the United manager.
“He’s only 19, made 10 or 11 starts, but he reminds me so much of the mentality of Gary Neville,” Solskjaer said after the FA Cup replay victory against Wolves in January where Williams kept the immense Adama Traore largely quiet.
Williams’ fiery nature could get him into trouble at times, but his fearless aggression in defence at such a young age is drawing parallels between him and the United great.
The youngster’s combative style makes him a tough match for any opposition winger; Williams has proved he will go toe to toe with the best that the league has to offer.
Despite operating in the unorthodox left-back role when his preferred foot is his right, Williams is not afraid to make overlapping runs and offer himself as another attacking outlet.
Just like Neville, Williams loves entering the final third and is arguably already the club’s best attacking full-back.
Neville’s biggest success at the club came with his special relationship with David Beckham on the right-flank.
And there are early signs that a promising partnership could develop on the left with Williams and United’s talisman Marcus Rashford in the future.
Solskjaer has emphasised the importance of recruiting good personalities as much as investing in talent as he begins to shape his rebuild at Old Trafford. But in Williams, he has unearthed a gem of his own.