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Manchester United's top 20 youth prospects: #9-10

Our countdown of Manchester United's best youngsters enters the top ten, with two local talents in defence and midfield.

Dan Istitene

In order to help run the rule over United's younger players, we enlisted the help of Doron Salomon, a regular youth-game watcher, to pass on some comments about the next generation of United talent. You can also find more of Doron's work on Stretford End.

If you missed the previous instalments of this series, you can find the full list of our top Manchester United youngsters here.

10. Tom Thorpe

One half of United's young homegrown axis in central defence along with Michael Keane, Tom Thorpe is a ball-playing centre-back who's as comfortable getting stuck in to the physical side of the game as he is running up the pitch with the ball and starting attacks for his team-mates. Although his development has not been as rapid as others, he is progressing very nicely. With his position requiring a greater maturity and Michael Keane closer to the first team, it's likely that a loan will be on the cards this season as he looks to progress through the ranks. Due to United's current riches in defence, they may need to be patient here, but the rewards could be great, particularly with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in advanced years.

Doron: One of the unsung titans of many United youth sides in recent years. With so many entertaining players further up the pitch, the defenders tend to get taken for granted. Tom, more often than not, has been the captain for both club and country in his age group. It therefore goes without saying that he has good leadership qualities and sets a high standard for everyone else to adhere to but he can play football too.

He's a centre back, a tad on the short side, not that it tends to have any negative impact on him. He's an elegant defender even if he tends to have a rough, messy look to his hair and facial fluff. He's excellent at reading the game and tends to find himself in the right place at the right time to make a block, interception or tackle. Maybe where he stands out is that he's good enough on the ball to play in midfield too (and has done for both United and England); he's an incredibly efficient user of possession and loves to embark on marauding runs forward. Aged 20 it may seem strange that he's had no impact on the first team or gone out on loan before but surely the latter will happen this season. In Michael Keane and Thrope, United are lucky to have such quality in depth at centre back.

9. Ben Pearson

We'd lamented the old dream that Manchester United would one day have Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, and Ryan Tunnicliffe as their central midfield for a decade in a previous entry, but although that plan appears to be fading, perhaps it's just been replaced by some younger models. Pearson is too young to think of as an answer to our long-running central midfield problems at present, but he perhaps has more of a chance than anyone in that role.

While the talents of Larnell Cole, Adnan Januzaj, and Jesse Lingard give some hope, there is the question of whether they can function as proper central midfielders, the real position that we have trouble with. There are no such question marks over Ben Pearson, a remarkable complete player who has all the skills necessary to compete in such a role.

After winning United's Academy Player of the Year award last season - an honour with a good record of players going on to make it at the club - then hopes will be high that Pearson can establish himself in the United side in the coming years. One of the brightest talents at the club, only so far down the list due to the fact his age means we haven't seen as much of him as we'd like yet. United have seen technical young midfielders leave the club and falter due to their physical deficiencies, such as Mats Daehli and Magnus Wolff Eikrem, and we've seen some powerful players like Tunnicliffe struggle to overcome their lack of natural technique. Pearson, however, marries both of these in one player. What really sets him out in his position is his comfort on the ball not only through his passing and touch, but also his confidence in running with the ball at his feet. Definitely one to keep a close eye on.

Doron: Pearson is a tenacious central midfielder with more than a passing resemblance to Owen Hargreaves. It's difficult to find something he's not good at - he loves a tackle, is improving as a user of the ball, goes box-to-box all game, and has a great attitude having come back from glandular fever 18 months ago.

He's a regular in England youth teams and stands out as being a tough player who, like many at United, is technically strong. His height has never really been an issue - a low centre of gravity helps him move around with ease and he's happy to get in the faces of players twice his side, he's fearless. Think Ryan Tunnicliffe meets Larnell Cole and you have a good idea of what he's all about. He'll be a big player for Warren Joyce's U21s this coming season and should continue to progress into a really impressive young player.