Chelsea are often criticised for their lack of youth development, but one of their youngsters has drawn much praise from Mick McCarthy, who believes Michael Mancienne has a bright future ahead of him after impressing during his loan spell at Wolverhampton.
The 22-year-old has made quite an impression on McCarthy as well as the Molineux faithful after an impressive season in the midlands. He has shown his versatility in both the defensive midfield role as well as his usual centre-back position and has played a major part in helping the Wanderers in their fight to avoid relegation. Wolves have scrapped their way up to 14th place in the Premier League and look set for another season in the top flight after earning a crucial nine points in their last six games, with Mancienne playing in an important role as Wolves’ enforcer. McCarthy, the former Republic of Ireland manager is delighted with the performance of the Chelsea youngster and believes his versatility will help him in his search for regular first team football, but concedes that the defender will have to be ‘top drawer’ and continue to improve if he wants to get into the first XI of his parent club Chelsea. Claude Makelele and Lassana Diarra have both departed Chelsea in the recent seasons and their star man Michael Essien has suffered injury problems which has left the west London club a little light in the holding midfield area.
The role is currently being filled quite successfully by another young player, Jon Obi Mikel the Nigerian, who has also impressed and has been rewarded the captain’s armband by his international coach Lars Lagerback. The Blues have been widely criticised for their ageing squad, with Sir Alex Ferguson being the most prominent critic after declaring his rivals were ‘too old’ to win the title last season, so the Londoners may welcome the increased competition that Mancienne can provide in the midfield area. The England Under-21 international has the ability to step up and improve in the anchorman role, which has grown in importance in the modern game according to Wolves’ McCarthy. He said: “Michael has been excellent. We know he is a good player. He is a centre-back but, from the moment I asked him to do the midfield role, he said ‘I love that.’ He did it when we won at Tottenham. He is improving. He is a really talented lad. The role has evolved.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers have already expressed their wish to keep hold of the Chelsea youngster beyond the end of the season, but if he continues in his current vein of form this may prove to be difficult. It is also worth noting that as a young English player Mancienne can be very useful for the Blues should FIFA’s proposed ‘6+5’ rule ever come into place, which will increase the need for home-grown talent.