Leeds United’s absence from top-flight football may have dampened the trans-Pennine rivalry but if Leeds United- Manchester United really is a modern manifestation of the War of the Roses, any transfer between the two isn’t any less noteworthy. History has thrown up successes travelling the M62 westwards but rarely have players found the grass to be greener inland (Gordon Strachan apart). However, having tracked Scott Wootton’s career since his move to Manchester United’s academy in 2007, the young central defender certainly has a future in the game.
The difficulty in evaluating young prospects that move away from top clubs is that it isn’t simply a case of not being good enough to be kept on. Competition for places is fierce and the conditions are often unrealistic for players to break into the first team, despite their abundance of talent. With regards to Scott Wootton, he could not have chosen a larger challenge for himself. The Ferdinand- Vidic partnership saw a player of Gerard Pique’s calibre out the door and with the recent buys of Smalling and Jones, not to mention the progress of Evans, opportunities were always going to be scarce. It was said that the original negotiations were for a loan move but with Michael Keane’s development following a successful loan spell at Leicester and positive early impressions on David Moyes on tour this summer, the scales tipped further towards a permanent deal away.
Leeds have begun the season with a shortage of recognised centre-backs and Wootton will be able to help in that department. His skill set is fairly standard of that of a modern day central defender, which is not to say he will be a mediocre player. Fairly athletic and decent on the ball, his true qualities lie in his reading of the game and leadership. Mental qualities are indispensable to a defender’s arsenal and they have been demonstrated when captaining Man United’s reserve and age group sides. Always one to throw himself on the line, his bravery will be prerequisite in the Championship, although his loan spells at Peterborough and Nottingham Forest have been too brief to either confirm or deny whether he will need time to adapt to the Championship.
Rumours of a sell-on clause that Ed Woodward has attached to his contract suggest that Wootton isn’t a run of the mill youth player who has become surplus to requirements. It may be thought that he has the potential to succeed at Championship or even perhaps Premiership level with the clause being a protection on the investment in him over the last few years. Having watched players such as Ryan Shawcross go from youth team potential to Premier League standard, Scott Wootton has a great opportunity to carve out a successful career for himself at Leeds United.