Teenage defender Jarrad Branthwaite has burst onto the scene this season having secured a three-year deal with the club last January following some excellent reserve game performances.
At the tender age of just 17 years and 132 days old he already has four league starts to his name and, reportedly, a wave of scouts tracking his progress as he goes about the steady business of learning his trade.
Speaking about United’s rising star, manager Steven Pressley said: “History will tell you that with every club I go to I want to develop a young, energetic side.
“That’s how my career has gone and that’s what I believe in. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we are seeing some of the shoots of that with the good group of young players we have coming through.
“Everybody is talking about young Jarrad at the moment, and he’s deserved that. Look at the weekend. For a 17-year-old who was playing at centre back to play like he did was outstanding.
"My job is to protect him and to ensure that he remains fully focused and stable as he continues to hopefully get better and better. If he does continue with the type of progression he’s shown so far then we’ve got a really good young player on our hands.”
“But it’s not just him,” he continued. “On the other side of him we had Jon Mellish, and he’s only just turned 22. This is his first season in league football and he’s really progressing as well. I thought he also gave an outstanding performance and it’s all really encouraging from our perspective.
“I have a real belief in where these lads can get to. As far as Jarrad and Jonare concerned for Friday night, and even with it being on the TV, I would never have played them last weekend if I didn’t have that belief in them.
“Let’s remember, the two lads either side of them are only 24 and 23 in the full back positions, but again I revert back to my history at Coventry. I played the youngest ever back four in the history of the club, so I’m not frightened to play these boys.
“I like to develop that part of the club and that’s why I don’t have any concerns in playing them on Friday, or in any game.”
The first time the manager spotted the young defender’s potential was at a reserve game in Oldham in January, just a few weeks after his arrival at the club.
“He was just a lad that immediately impressed me because I thought he had all of the attributes,” he explained. “He’s beginning to physically grow into his body even though he won’t be fully developed for three or four years yet.
“He’s making really good progress and the good thing is that I spoke to his father on Saturday night and he has a really good family. We’re all making sure he keeps his feet firmly on the ground because that’s the most important thing with young players, that you don’t lose focus and you don’t stop understanding why you’re progressing as you are.
“To be honest, I don’t have a problem with that kid because he’s a really smart kid. He’s developed quicker than I expected him to, there’s no doubt about that. That’s credit to my staff who work tirelessly with him in the afternoons.
“The boy’s attitude is great and it’s nice to see. It was at that reserve game in Oldham when I first saw him and I think I phoned David [Holdsworth] about five or six times after that to ensure he could get him tied up the following day, which he did do.”
But as we’ve seen very recently, the emergence of young prospects at the club tends to bring some of the big hitters into play.
“We haven’t had any approaches for him that I’m aware of, but I’ve been in football long enough to know that the big clubs are all over any young talent that comes through or emerges in the manner that he has,” he admitted. “I’m sure that it will be no different with him. My job is to manage the situation and eventually build the type of team we want to build, and I certainly hope that Jarrad is part of that.
“We’re really early into this plan, but hopefully in years to come we’ll have far more Jarrad’s in the building. If it came down to it, and I hope it isn’t in January, where the club sold a player like that then the importance is how we reinvest the money.
“That becomes more and more important as we move forward. I’d say we’re on page one of that plan just now, but we want to get the club into a situation where there is no need to sell young players, or if we do we’ve already got the next one ready to come in.
“We’re a long way off that at this moment. Obviously for me, I’d love the club to say we aren’t selling Jarrad, but everything has to be taken into account. I’d love to keep him here and I really want to keep him here.
“I love working with him and he’s such an exciting talent. He’s somebody that eventually we can build a team around. But big clubs buying players like this is part of the modern game now, and I don’t like it.
“When I look back at some of the great teams when I was growing up, the first one that springs to mind is Aberdeen and the team Sir Alex Ferguson built there. You could keep all those players because that was how it was then.
“I don’t like the way big clubs just stockpile young talent these days. It doesn’t sit right with me.
“I want to build a young team here and I’m working really hard with my staff and the players themselves on that. We also have to pick up good young players from outside the club, such as Jon Mellish, Jack Iredale, Mo Sagaf and Harry McKirdy. These are the players we have to find, but we have to find them before anybody else and that’s what we’re working towards.”