Three unlikely stars of Manchester United's season so far: Featuring 19 & 20-year-old talents

Rafael 2

Louis van Gaal's side are fourth in the Premier League after seven games. Here are three unlikely heroes from their start to the campaign...

Tyler Blackett

Considering Manchester United's defensive troubles so far this season, it is amazing to think any of their defenders could make a list of unlikely heroes in their campaign.

But without Tyler Blackett, who knows where Louis van Gaal's side would be?

The 20-year-old has stood tall and saved his side countless times at the back, shouldering plenty of responsibility for one so young.

  TeamPosTackles WonInterceptions WonEffective ClearancesAerial Duels WonAppsMins
Tyler Blackett Man Utd DF 4 15 29 8 6 462

As Opta stats show, Blackett has performed ably for United this term, impressing in particular with his clearances (his tally of 29 is higher than any other Manchester United player).

Apart from his sending off at Leicester City, the youngster has been exemplary, although he could have done with some protection from his team-mates even then.

Paddy McNair

Another defender on the list! And Paddy McNair's rise to prominence is even more surprising than that of Blackett's.

It's safe to say not many had heard of the Man United academy product until his rather sudden debut against West Ham United. A serious injury crisis meant the 19-year-old had to start against the Hammers, however, and he did not disappoint.

Against both Sam Allardyce's men and during the 2-1 win versus Everton that followed, McNair has led by example and pulled his side out of a hole on more than one occasion. A star of the future, without a doubt.

Rafael

It's a hat-trick. Three out of three defenders. But when the likes of Jonny Evans & Chris Smalling have been so bad, the likes of Blackett, McNair and Rafael have done a sensational job to restore some dignity to United's back line.

Yes, the trio could get exposed against one of the Premier League's stronger sides. For now, though, they are doing their job to the very best of their capabilities.

Rafael, in particular, has been on top form so far this term, threatening in attack as well as defending astutely.

  TeamPosTackles WonInterceptions WonEffective ClearancesAssistsAppsMins
Rafael Man Utd DF 7 15 20 1 4 337

As Opta stats show, the 24-year-old Brazilian has won seven tackles in the league (the second-highest United tally behind Phil Jones), 15 interceptions and made 20 clearances. Rafael also provided a superb assist for a Wayne Rooney goal against West Ham.

With a squad filled with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and more, then, United's three young defenders have certainly made themselves into three unlikely stars of the campaign so far. Now for more of the same from the rest of Van Gaal's squad.

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