In this scouting report, we will look at the young Irish ball-playing midfielder from the U-18 Manchester United squad. Neil Ryan coaches that side and must see a tremendous talent in Charlie McCann, who joined from Coventry City in the 2017/2018 season. McCann has played 16 matches in the 2019/20 season with seven goals. This was on the tail end of the 2018/19 season where he racked up 24 appearances and scored five goals for the Red Devils U-18s.
How Ryan uses his talent
Ryan continually uses McCann in his match line-ups. Out of the 16 total games played he averaged 83.16 minutes played. McCann seems very comfortable in the centre of the pitch. For the Ireland U-17 he plays more in an attacking role, but in the United squad, he finds himself in defensive midfielder role. As you can see below he is a box to box midfielder in these roles. Ryan has used McCann in odd positions like left attacking midfielder or left-wing to get McCann minutes during the 2018/2019 season. McCann has settled into the defensive midfield role in the 2019/20 campaign. Out of the 13 league games as part of the 2019/20 season he has played 1,036 minutes averaging 79.69 minutes per game at the defensive midfield role specifically.
McCann looks to be a stable force for the young team. He is receiving on average 37.33 passes per game and giving 50.44 passes with an 84.7% accuracy rating.
McCann continually looks to push the ball forward. On average he plays the ball forward 34.5% of the time. In the image below you can see that McCann picked the ball up in a wide position and looks forward in his distribution. He sees his forward in an advanced role behind his mark. The move sets up a strike on goal, and helps you understand the vision that McCann has in tight areas. This helps move the ball to dangerous positions deep inside the defensive lines before the opposition can close down space or defensively shift.
With this vision comes his ability to make decisions on the ball. You can see in the image below he opens himself up to receive a pass from an advancing centre-back. This allows him to freeze the backline by opening up with the ball. Still thinking about moving in a positive direction with the ball, McCann advances the ball off the dribble. By taking the space in front of him off the dribble he makes the defence make a choice. They have to drop into passing lanes or pressure the ball. When they do not put pressure on him they open themselves up to a shot on goal.
As the defensive lines drops and McCann shows his skill in evading a trailing defender. He cuts the ball back onto his right foot. McCann ends up showing his talent for long-distance accuracy. He puts this one past the keeper with a curling effort from 20 yards out. This has been a strong asset to the team and he continues to show skill at finding the back of the net from distance.
McCann holds good shape off the ball. In most instances, he pushes in behind the ball while holding that defensive shape. This helps him win the knockdowns or second balls come off of poor clearances. In the image below you can see how McCann holds central space as his attacking midfielders push an attack up the channels. By him collecting the balls higher up the pitch that the opposition tries to play out he is able to keep his team in an attacking posture.
McCann is a box to box midfielder and works hard to get forward when his team is on the attack. In the image below you can see how he gets forward to put himself into a scoring position. As the attack advances down the wing, McCann follows the play and does the work to put himself at the top of the box. This sort of play is key in the modern game where more players join the attack, but McCann does it at the right times. This support allows him a lot of opportunities for shots from distance.
Out of possession
Out of possession, McCann works hard to create good positions to defend from. He maintains his central role, while keeping playing relationships to those around him. In the image below you can see how McCann looks to provide cover to the pressuring defender while holding central space.
This helps balance the team and allow his team playout of spaces where they win the ball. The transitional support is key to his game and follows United’s model of midfielders driving the game. In the image below you can see how McCann forces the opponent toward cover as he does not allow the attacking midfielder to cut the ball back across his defensive line. He ends up forcing him into a poor cross into a single attacking player in the box.
This choice helps United keep the shape against the attacking team and he ended up forcing the player wide. With good speed and a great work ethic, he covers effectively which allows his outside backs more forward with more freedom.
One of McCann’s strengths seems to be the ability to intercept or anticipate the play of the ball. This leads me to believe he is reading the game well and working ahead of the players around him. He typically recovers the ball higher up the pitch with greater than 50% of his recoveries in the opponents half. With five to six key interceptions a game he seems to help control the game. With teams that like to keep position like a Manchester City, he had 10 interceptions. Again, this leads you to believe that he starts in a good defending position and maintains his space higher up the pitch while reading the game well.
In this analysis the weaknesses in McCann’s game is slight. He is not strong in the air, but in today’s modern game it may not be as telling as in years past. He only wins 33.3% of his aerial duals on average. He also only wins 37% of the loose ball challenges that he has. Now, that number is rather low for a true defensive midfielder but due to his starting defensive position, he does not get into a lot of 50/50 type challenges in the first place. This is the main reason this number is low compared to other players at his age and position.
McCann has a bright future in the United organization and for his country if he continues to develop. His work ethic will be the engine that helps drive his clubs into top table finishes. I am sure that if he continues with United he will get a chance to shine for the first team as United continue to give young professionals chances to battle for top spots on the first team.