BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN believes Demi Mitchell has the quality and character to make the grade at Manchester United after hailing the marauding full-back as the best loan signing he has ever made.
Mitchell, 21, has been a revelation at Tynecastle following his arrival in January, claiming three man-of-the-match awards and one goal from his six appearances in maroon to date.
His sensational strike against St Johnstone in last Saturday’s 3-0 triumph over St Johnstone illustrated the attacking intent and willingness to try his luck from distance which have made him an immediate fans’ favourite in Gorgie.
Mitchell has already made one senior outing for the Red Devils – a fine showing in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in front of a sell-out 75,000 crowd at Old Trafford – and Levein sees no reason he cannot break into Jose Mourinho’s plans.
Levein lauded: “When you bring someone in on their first loan from a massive club in England, the risk is do they adapt as quickly as is needed? Well, I don’t think I have ever had a loan player who has adapted as quickly as Demi.
“That’s a credit to him and also a credit to Manchester United.
“Can he make it at United? It’s up to him. I think he has the talent and the attitude and if he gets the breaks then I think he has it in him.
“Of all the loan deals I have ever done, he has been the one that has been the most impressive. That is a bit of a statement, but I think it is accurate. He hasn’t had a poor match since he has been here. He has gone from playing academy football in England to experiencing loads of things he has never experienced before.
“The pitches are not the same standard – particularly ours – and he he been playing Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, which is something else he has never done before.
“Yet he has scored and looked like scoring on a number of occasions, he is very quick and he has endeared himself to the supporters and his teammates. He is a boy you can take to immediately. He is such a good kid.”
While Mitchell’s technical ability has shone through in the early weeks of his Hearts career, Levein insists it is the mature attitude of the England under-20 internationalist that gives him a real chance of reaching the top.
Much like Liverpool loanee Connor Randall, the Jambos gaffer has been won over by the lack of ego and the unending work ethic of a player who has come through the ranks in the refined surroundings at Carrington.
“What I have found with Demi and Connor Randall is they are a credit to their clubs with the type of players they are. They’re both no-nonsense, focused, professional and determined to do really well.
“Sometimes you can have someone with great ability but their attitude is poor. Demi has a brilliant attitude. Somebody’s ego should always match their attitude and if they have a great attitude you find they don’t get themselves too carried away.”
Mitchell has been the most recent standout in a magnificent run of just one defeat in 15 matches yet, ahead of a trip to face the Premiership’s bottom club Ross County, Levein firmly believes the best is yet to come from his developing Jambos.
He continued: “I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t think I can go to sleep at night and know absolutely how we are going to play the next day, so I’m striving to get to that point.
“There are some players who are not up to speed yet and there’s definitely more to come.
“I look at the bench now and, bar bringing in one more striker, I like what I see. We have a lot of quality there. Some of the players are young players but the quality is still there and that’s the encouraging thing for me.”
Levein, however, did confirm that Jamie Brandon could be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign after suffering a knee injury during a development squad fixture against Aberdeen this week. A subsequent scan will be needed confirm the extent of the damage, but Levein fears the worst.
He added: “It looks like a fairly problematic knee injury, we’ll know more when he has the scan. We’ll see where he is but it could mean his season is over. That’s a disappointment because Jamie has done really well.”