The name Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is one not many Manchester United would have known before he was named on the bench for United’s game against West Brom in November. Aside from being notable for simply having the longest name of any Manchester United player, Borthwick-Jackson has gone on to establish himself as a regular member of United’s first-team squad.
Borthwick-Jackson has taken the opportunity given to him by Louis Van Gaal with both hands and looks set to sign a new contract at Old Trafford in the coming months. The chance came for the Manchester-born defender due to a spate of injuries suffered by United in the full-back area. The Red Devils will be without Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia in the long term, while Ashley Young will be out for a sustained period following his recent injury in the 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Borthwick-Jackson replaced Young just before half-time in that game and has started the subsequent four games at left-back. As well as playing on the flank, local boy Borthwick-Jackson has also shown an ability to play at centre-back in United’s academy teams. Despite not being known by many United fans before this season, Borthwick-Jackson has been at United for 12 years having joined their academy at the age of six in 2003.
Borthwick-Jackson made his debut for United’s reserve side at the age of 16, coming on as a substitute in a 4-1 win over Bolton in September 2013. Despite that early appearance for the reserves, the youngster spent the next two seasons playing for the under-18s side. Making 55 appearances in that age group, 51 of them were in the starting line-up.
You would imagine that Borthwick-Jackson went into this season with the aim of establishing himself in United’s under-21s side. Instead the young Mancunian has made the jump from the under-18s to the first team look very simple. Indeed, the defender looks like he takes everything his stride, looking calm despite playing in two of the biggest games in the Premier League already in his short career. As well as performing his defensive duties, Borthwick-Jackson has also shown good ability on the ball going forward, providing an assist for Jesse Lingard opening goal against Stoke and his cross led to Lingard opening the account against Chelsea.
Van Gaal gave Borthwick-Jackson his first opportunity in the first-team against West Brom on November 7 when he was naming him as a substitute. The youngster replaced Marcos Rojo at left-back with many fans inside Old Trafford looking to each other and thinking, “who’s this”?
United went into their crucial Champions League encounter with Wolfsburg with a shortage of defenders. They suffered a further blow when Darmian injured his hamstring towards the end of the first-half, meaning a Champions League debut for the youth team product. Again he performed admirably and didn’t look out of place in such an important game. Four days later, he made his first Premier League start in United’s 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth.
Louis Van Gaal wants his full-backs to not just perform their defensive duties but also provide an attacking threat. For that reason Ashley Young was chosen ahead of Borthwick-Jackson in the left-back position in the games following the Bournemouth defeat. Injury to Young in the first-half of United’s 1-0 win at Anfield forced Borthwick-Jackson back into first-team action and he didn’t let his manager down in the hostile atmosphere of Anfield.
Following on from his introduction at Anfield, Borthwick-Jackson has been an ever-present in the side and this has coincided in improved attacking performances from Louis Van Gaal’s team. I believe that Borthwick-Jackson has had a hand in this. Even though he is a young player with very few first-team appearances under his belt, he has experience of the position he is playing in. The Mancunian has struck up a good relationship with Frenchman Anthony Martial down the left hand side for United and it is one that has been quite potent for the Old Trafford outfit thus far.
The future looks bright for Borthwick-Jackson. Once Luke Shaw returns from his horrific broken leg, he will have competition from the young Mancunian for the left-back position in United’s first-team. We don’t want to get carried away, but if Borthwick-Jackson continues to perform as he has done in his first ten appearances for United, then there is no reason why he couldn’t force his way into Roy Hodgson thoughts for this summer’s European Championships.
This article was for The Boot Room