Is this Manchester United starlet finally set for his breakthrough season?

Manchester United 3

As Sir Alex Ferguson praises his young players, one young striker is continuing his long road to recovery.

In the build-up to the Manchester derby, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about the emergence of his side’s young players, warning rivals that they would only get better.

There is a tradition at Manchester United of young players not only breaking into the first team but in many cases defining that team.

It happened with the class of ’92, where a truly outstanding group including David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes forged a future culminating in the treble success of 1999.

While more recently, the likes of Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Rafael have all staked their claim to be among the next batch of potential greats.

As with all clubs, there are players at Old Trafford yet to be introduced to the global stage, players who are held in the highest regard.

If fans were asked to name one, they would most likely opt for Nick Powell. But if they were asked the same question a year ago, they would have undoubtedly said Will Keane.

This was supposed to be his break-out year. When the then-19-year-old suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury while playing for England under-19s, Ferguson spoke of his great disappointment as Keane was set for the first team squad this season.

Despite having made only one substitute appearance for the first team, on the last day of 2011 against Blackburn, Keane’s goal-scoring exploits in the reserves had marked him out as someone very special indeed.

His performance in the match that secured the Premier Reserve League North was a microcosm of both his ability and his achievements to date, as he scored four times in a 6-3 win over Newcastle.

That took his tally to 16 for the campaign. And despite the number of strikers ahead of him at United, few believed he would look out of place in their company.

Perhaps the most confusing thing for United fans was that while the likes of Bebe, Federico Macheda and Gabriel Obertan got game-time, Keane had seen so little before his injury.

In the week that Ferguson talked of his side’s youthful promise, of a team that will grow together, the one name missing from that list is continuing his slow recovery from injury.

United last spoke of Keane’s on-going rehabilitation back in September, when reserve team coach Warren Joyce explained that the young striker must make the most of a bad situation by working in the gym until he is fit enough to return to full training.

Having suffered the same injury that ruled Nemanja Vidic out for a whole year, and for a number of times thereafter, it is no surprise the club are taking Keane’s recovery slowly.

This season should have been the one that introduced him to the world outside Old Trafford.

But next season, if all goes well, he could be joining the list of names his manager hails as the future of the club.

How good can Will Keane ultimately be?  And will next season finally be the one when he shows what he can do?

image: © http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdies-perch/

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