Hatters boss will look to take the emotion out of Manchester United return for Luton duo Chong and Mengi
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Town boss Rob Edwards will look to take any emotion out of the occasion for both of his former Manchester United academy graduates Tahith Chong and Teden Mengi on what will be their first return to Old Trafford this weekend.
The pair came through the ranks with the Red Devils as both caught the eye when doing so, Chong winning the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year and Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year awards, Mengi captaining the U18s team.
After loan spells at Werder Bremen and Club Brugge, Chong left to join Birmingham City, turning the deal into a permanent one in the summer of 2022, while Mengi was snapped up from the Red Devils by Luton back in August.
On what will be a maiden trip back to a club that played such a big part in their development, Edwards said: “We’ve got them at our football club now, their history is their history.
“They’ve had amazing upbringings at Manchester United and have worked with some fantastic coaches and other brilliant players.
"We're hopefully now going to see the best years of them with us.
"I’m sure they’re both looking forward to it, we’re trying not to make it too much of an emotional occasion, they haven’t got to do anything they haven't been doing before.
"They've been doing great for us, they've been brilliant people, had a real impact and positive impacts in the games so far for us, so the big message from me is you haven't got to do anything special just because it’s Manchester United and it’s your former club.
"I know it’s a big occasion for them, just go and enjoy it and keep doing what they've been doing.”
Chong goes into the game on the back of a starring cameo against Liverpool on Sunday evening as introduced on 75 minutes, he scored a wonderful counter-attacking goal moments later to look like he had given the hosts victory, only to see Luis Diaz equalise in stoppage time.
Having started just one of the Hatters’ last seven Premier League matches, coming on in four of them, asked just how much that first ever top flight goal will boost him going forward, Edwards continued: “He’s amazing Chongy, I think he’s been impacting games really well from the bench.
"His challenge is to keep doing that and when he gets his opportunities, take them from the start.
"He’s brilliant around the place, every single day in training he gives everything, his quality has been there to see.
"That was the biggest impact he’s had so far, so it’s great he’s going into the next game in a real confident mood.”
Meanwhile, Mengi has been one of the stars of a Town’s back-line that has been decimated by a number of injuries in recent weeks.
Without Amari’i Bell, Mads Andersen, Reece Burke and Dan Potts, the 21-year-old has started four of the last five top flight fixtures for Luton, his highlight being limiting Liverpool’s star striker Mo Salah to only the odd chance last weekend.
Edwards felt it was another way in which the defender has impressed in what is a fledgling career at the top tier of English football, saying: “The whole unit was very good the other day, but I think Teden is going to be a really good player.
"It’s a really good bit of business by the football club, he’s young, athletic, good with the ball, wants to defend.
"He’s made a really good start to life here at Luton and what I was really pleased about was there were a couple of elements of his game that he’s worked hard on just within a week.
"He’s shown that he’s coachable and intelligent as well and put that into practise against Liverpool, so I’m delighted with how he’s started for us.”
On whether he was surprised that United agreed to let him leave, opting to sign former defender Jonny Evans instead over the summer, Edwards added: “Its a nice little gain for us isn’t it, but they’ve got loads and loads of quality and it’s a decision that’s been made, so I’m not going to criticise them for allowing him to come here.
"I think what they've done is seen an opportunity for him as well, as they do look after their players.
"Maybe it was going to be difficult for him to get that first team football and they’ve allowed him to further his career in the Premier League here with us, so it was a really good decision by all.”