Introducing Man Utd youngster Bjorn Hardley - part of Cristiano Ronaldo's "winning team"

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If there was one positive to be detracted from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign, it is that Manchester United appears to have regained its reputation for producing and unearthing top quality talent.

Mason Greenwood has become a regular part of the first-team since breaking into the side in 2018, while youngsters Anthony Elanga, Shola Shoretire and Teden Mengi have been handed opportunities of late despite their tender age.

And the latest starlet to get his chance to impress with the senior squad is teenager Bjorn Hardley.

The 18-year-old is little known outside of Carrington as he is yet to make his senior debut, but like many Red Devils academy hopefuls, he is hoping to make the step up in the coming months.

He first appeared at training before the Champions League tie against Atalanta, but after featured on the same winning team as Cristiano Ronaldo during Tuesday’s session, he would have done his chances of catching the attention of senior United staff no harm at all.

© Instagram/@cristiano Bjorn Hardley was one of the youngsters to feature in Man Utd’s training session with Cristiano Ronaldo

Hardley was pictured along with Juan Mata, Amad, Dean Henderson, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Ronaldo, who uploaded the image to his official Instagram account for his 373 million followers to see.

It is common for youth academy players to be included in the senior squad’s training to give them a dose of what they are working towards and see how they cope against players out of their age group.

But to get that sense of recognition from Ronaldo on a global platform will only do positive things for Hardley’s career at Old Trafford.

Mirror Football gives you the lowdown on the promising teenager and how he ended up at Man United…

Career so far

Hardley was born in Tillburg in the Netherlands and holds dual Dutch and Suriname citizenship. He will celebrate his 19th birthday on December 12 next month.

Having joined NAC Breda for his youth development, he signed for Man United in 2019 after impressing their visiting scout Rene Moonen, who urged the club to snap him up.

The Dutch teenager has quietly but quickly made his way through the youth sides, establishing himself as a regular for the Under-18s side before making his Under-23 debut last season.

The centre-back has been learning under Mengi, who has been fast-tracked to the United bench in recent months, while Under-23s coach Paul McShane has been working to develop his game.

And Hardley, 18, was given his first call-up to the senior squad to take part in a senior session alongside fellow centre-backs Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane before United’s 2-2 draw with Atalanta earlier this month.

Playing style

The Dutch youngster can operate at the back or as a defensive midfielder and has composure on the ball.

What is rare for a player in his position is that Hardley is left-footed. Left-footed centre-backs are difficult to come by and therefore attract a higher value than their right-footed colleagues.

As it stands, there are no other left-footed centre-backs available in the United squad.

Hardley has been described as a “leader” by United youth coach Paul Ryan and the exciting youngster, standing at 6ft 3, certainly has the makeup of a future captain.

In both boxes, he is a threat and looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, as most modern centre-backs do.

The towering defender possesses all the components to become a potential first-team player in the future, with his tall and slender frame but impressive stamina and mobility – attributes commonly seen in Premier League defenders.

Playing against footballers of Ronaldo’s quality in training on a daily basis will only help him develop his game.

What they say

Moonen, a former scouting co-ordinator at Ajax before linking up with United, knows a talented kid when he spots one.

And the Dutch youth scout spoke in glowing terms about Hardley, recalling the story of how he was instantly left in awe at the youngster’s “special” ability when visiting to watch him.

“He (Hardley) had not attracted the attention of any other club – understandable, given that very few scouts come to see NAC Breda,” the Dutchman explained to JOGO.

“The advantage of my work method is that I go everywhere and therefore was able to see him in action. Right away, my mouth fell wide open: ‘Wow, this is a special kid.’

“Then I started to follow him more intensively, even together with a fellow Manchester United scout from the Netherlands (Roy Beukenkamp). He was also immediately blown away, after which four more people from United saw him in action in different matches.

“In the end, everyone was enthusiastic and now he plays for us.”

It may be some time before he makes his first appearance in the red shirt of United, but there is optimism Hardley can become the latest youngster to progress through the ranks.

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