Demetri Mitchell: The lowdown on Hearts’ new left back

Demetri Mitchell in action for Manchester United Under-23s against Porto B in a Premier League International Cup match in February 2017. Picture: Getty Images
Demetri Mitchell in action for Manchester United Under-23s against Porto B in a Premier League International Cup match in February 2017. Picture: Getty Images
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He was once hailed as “silkier than Marcus Rashford” and made his debut for Manchester United at the tail end of last season. Here’s a quick lowdown on Hearts new boy Demetri Mitchell

He started out as a left winger

Born and brought up in the shadow of Old Trafford, Demetri Mitchell started his career as an exciting left winger with explosive pace and an eye for goal, scoring six goals in 22 appearances for Manchester United’s Under-18s during the 2012/13 season. Prior to that, he had helped England Schoolboys triumph in the Victory Shield and was part of the England national team that won the Under-17 European Championship in 2014 alongside the likes of on-loan Celtic winger Patrick Roberts and current Liverpool pair Dominic Solanke and Joe Gomez.

Described by his coaches at United as a “potential game-changer” with “explosive pace”, he has occasionally operated up front because of his goalscoring exploits and finishing technique.

He was converted to a left-back after the departure of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who joined Wolves on loan, and narrowly missed out on the Old Trafford side’s Reserve Team Player of the Year award last season.

His senior career so far

Mitchell made his debut for United against Crystal Palace last season, playing the full 90 minutes at left back in a 2-0 win. He had been part of the travelling party for United’s visit to Arsenal on May 7 and didn’t make the final squad, but was named among the substitutes for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur the following week.

His stock rose further when he joined the United first team squad for their summer tour ahead of this season in the US and he was then added to United’s Champions League squad at the start of the campaign. However, he has not added to his solitary appearance in the first team.

Unlike team-mates Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Borthwick-Jackson, who are on loan at Crystal Palace and Leeds respectively, Mitchell up until this point had not been sent out on loan. The pair, along with Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe, have made a handful of appearances each for United and it appears United are now happy for Mitchell to get more first-team experience in his new position.

Attacking or defensive full back?

Perhaps unsurprisingly given his previous position, Mitchell is very much an attacking full back. One of his strengths - a throwback from his days as a winger - is taking on opposing defenders in one-on-one situations.

Mitchell would almost certainly be able to perform in a left wing-back role if Levein wanted to go with three at the back, as he has on occasion this season.

He’s worked closely with United Under-18s coach Kieran McKenna on his one-on-one defending, with a particular focus on using his speed to shut down attackers.

What they said about Mitchell

Prior to his conversion to left back, Tony Park - Manchester United’s youth historian - said: “Demetri’s got all the qualities to be a class forward ... he’s much silkier than Marcus Rashford, he’s got more skill on the ball than him, but doesn’t have the physique that Marcus has.”

United boss Jose Mourinho said after his debut: “Probably in a few years Man United will have half a dozen of these kids in the team. I think Scott McTominay and Demetri Mitchell are also kids to have a future in the club and Andreas Pereira is back.”

Craig Levein told STV: “[Demetri] was a winger who’s converted to full-back and we are looking for some balance in the team.

“We’ve spoken regularly about trying to find a balance and I’m sure that Demetri will provide us with that. He’s a confident young lad and I’m sure he’ll be a valuable addition to our squad.”

What Mitchell has said

Speaking to ManUtd.com in June last year, Mitchell gave an insight into his experience of adapting to a new position, saying: “It was just a transition, as it’s not too dissimilar to left-winger. There is a lot more defending involved obviously, but I think I can bring my attacking qualities to left-back as well.

“I like to get forward and have an impact on the game - getting forward and getting goals and assists are something I thrive on. I look to bring that to any team I play for.

“I feel comfortable at left back and it’s natural for me to play there. I’ve worked hard and watched videos of players like (Real Madrid defender) Marcelo and (former Arsenal and Chelsea left back) Ashley Cole. I tried to build my game around players like that and I think it’s worked well.”