When I joined Stretford-End.com I wanted to be able to add something that reflects one of my particular interests – the Reserves and Academy. Already on the forum our Reserves and Academy section has been busier but I wanted to take my passion to a wider audience. If you follow me on Twitter you will know I want to try to get as many Reds as possible interested in what goes on beyond the first team at our club. Regular visitors to Stretford-End.com will know that we’ve always championed development from within so I want to make it a regular habit to introduce some of our youngsters every few weeks, starting with the Reserve team captain, Magnus Eikrem…
Name – Magnus Eikrem
Age – 20 (8/8/1990)
Nationality – Norwegian (born in Molde)
Squad number – 42
Background – Eikrem is famed for being one of the first players to be spotted at the Ole Gunner Solskjaer soccer school. He joined United in the summer of 2006 from hometown team, FK Molde.
Position – At present Magnus is usually deployed in central midfield. He either sits deep and controls games in the ‘quarterback’ position associated with Scholes today; or he sits higher up behind the strikers. When he first joined he was often used wide, although he’s not the fastest player he puts in an excellent cross. However he was given a more permanent role in the middle of the Reserve team from the start of the 09/10 season onwards. His current role is very much as the playmaker, he’s the go-to man, similar to Scholes in the first team – all the moves go through him.
Strengths – He is a superb user of the ball with a fantastic passing range. Never fazed by bigger opponents, he likes to play the ball early and always has his head up. As a result, he has superb vision, one of the few young players I’ve seen with a good peripheral vision. Magnus seems to find space easily – dropping into gaps in front of the back four or behind the strikers, he therefore causes problems for the opposition as he’s so hard to pick up. He’s very creative without being flashy, he does the simple things very well and rarely attempts unnecessary skills – he only uses them when he feels they’re required. I find that restraint impressive, too often young players attempt skills because they can do them rather than because they are needed – it certainly took both Ronaldo and Nani a while to learn the art of using a skill to your advantage rather than all the time. His free kick taking is an attribute that he’s been good at ever since he joined, and he’s often rewarded with quite a few goals and assists from set pieces.
Weaknesses – Magnus is yet to bulk up, he can hold his own but I’m worried he’s still a bit lightweight. This may come down the the fact that he seems to be injury prone. He’s been unfortunate to have picked up some bad injuries, although the majority have been growth related so hopefully he’s over them now. He works hard for the team but he sometimes shirks his defensive duties, he needs to improve on his tackling and marking.
Player comparison – Luka Modric
Present – Last year started with a new long-term contract worth £6,000 a week for Magnus, underlining how he’s viewed from inside the club. Following his nomination for the Denzel Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year award at the end of the 09/10 season, I was surprised that he wasn’t included on the clubs pre-season tour of the US this summer. However, Magnus has taken his excellent form into this campaign and has been made the Reserve team captain. Against Manchester City in the Manchester Senior Cup recently he captained the likes of Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Michael Carrick and Anderson.
Bizarre fact – Eikrem was diagnosed with Diabetes at the end of his first season with United. Should he go on to play for the first team he will be the first diabetic to do so.
Prediction – He was named amongst the substitutes for Wolfsburg away last year which is a sign that he’s not being ignored however I feel he needs a loan move to the Football League so that he experiences ‘tougher’ football. He’s already completed one full season at reserve level and whilst I accept he is playing a bit of catch-up due to time missed through injuries, I feel he’s already too good for Reserve football. The problem is that the nature of football today is that if a player hits 20 and hasn’t ‘made it’ they’re considered not good enough. Magnus clearly has lots of talent but I worry that he won’t get a proper chance at United right now. If he doesn’t go out on loan then hopefully he’ll be involved in the Carling Cup squads. I would imagine that a loan move in January may be the likely option if Magnus proves he can get through till then without an injury. In the longer term, Ferguson has always hinted that the club may recruit from outside to replace Scholes but I think this lad could be the real deal.