It was a chaotic night on the other side of Manchester on Tuesday as rivals Manchester City took on Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Man City ran out 2-1 winners on the night thanks to a late goal from Phil Foden, however, it was another young Englishman who stole the headlines for different reasons.
Jude Bellingham made history for being the second-youngest player to start a Champions League quarter-final at just 17. He nearly capped off this historic night with a goal, but his effort was controversially ruled out for a foul on keeper Ederson in the build-up.
Bellingham did play a pivotal role in Dortmund’s crucial away goal though, feeding the ball into United target Erling Haaland who then threaded a pass to Marco Reus to draw his side level.
This was just one of the multiple impressive contributions from the former Birmingham City player who thrived playing an all-action role in the heart of Dortmund’s midfield.
On the night he was tenacious and unrelenting, he engaged in more duels than any other Dortmund teammate, and he’s now covered the most distance of any Dortmund player across their whole Champions League campaign this season.
His hard work, along with that of his fellow Dortmund teammates, was a key reason why City struggled to break down and dominate the German visitors in the same way they have with many other opponents this season.
“We frustrated them well when they had the ball,” said Bellingham after the match. “At times, they found it hard to break us down. We used the ball well and efficiently. Our goal was a brilliant bit of play to put Marco [Reus] in and a great finish. We’re still disappointed to concede so late, but we’ll use that away goal in the second leg and see what we can do.”
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It wasn’t just the 17-year-old’s good work without the ball that impressed, but also his good technical ability with it. He was calm and composed in possession and finished the game with a standout pass success rate of 90 per cent.
The maturity of his display against a top European side might again entice Manchester United to try again to bring the teenager to Old Trafford this summer.
The Reds were reportedly interested in Bellingham last summer and even gave him and his family a tour of the Aon Training Complex at Carrington. It was said United’s recruitment staff had been monitoring the midfielder’s development for almost two years and in doing so built a close relationship with the player and those around him.
However, when it came to a decision on his next destination, the lure of playing week in week out at Dortmund rather than being a bit-role player in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad proved decisive in his decision.
At the time, it seemed as though United were well stocked in the midfield area, having the likes of Fred, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matić and Paul Pogba at their disposal.
Yet fast forward ten months and doubts remain about whether the first three actually have the capacity to dominate a midfield for a side with title-winning aspirations, and there are still serious doubts about Pogba’s long-term United future.
This has changed the landscape in terms of what role Bellingham could potentially play at United if he arrived.
He’s proven by his displays in the Bundesliga and Champions League this season that he can perform at the very highest level. With Pogba approaching the final year of his contract, it’s likely that this summer will represent United’s last chance to sell him for a substantial fee.
Doing so, and then pushing to bring in Bellingham would mean United are trading out a 28-year-old for a player 11 years his junior who, based on what we’ve seen so far, has a ceiling that can one day be just as a high as the French World Cup winner.
Beyond this potential move being good economical business for United, Bellingham himself will no doubt have aspirations of returning back to England to play in the Premier League. He clearly already has a good relationship with club officials, making this deal proposed deal a perfect one for both parties.