Man United youngster Demetri Mitchell talks United, loan spell at Hearts and future dreams
Demetri Mitchell is making senior football look easy.
He made his Manchester United debut against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on the final day of last season, helping to keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 win by looking after Wilfried Zaha.
On loan at Hearts since January, the 21-year-old has played six games, winning man of the match in three and scoring his first goal -- a dipping drive from 25 yards -- in a 3-0 win over St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup fifth round at Tynecastle on Saturday.
It is all the more impressive when you consider he's done it all while playing at left-back or left wing-back, positions he had no experience playing a little over a year ago.
"It couldn't have gone much better," Mitchell tells ESPN FC.
"I got man of the match in my first game at Hearts and to get my first goal at the weekend was special. I had family there so it was a special day. But it's still only six games so there is a lot of the season left to go."
Born in Manchester, Mitchell played for Fletcher Moss Rangers, the same youth side that produced Wes Brown, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, before joining United's academy at the age of 10.
He was called up to the senior squad by Jose Mourinho for the first time at the end of last season as the United manager rotated his players before the Europa League final. Mitchell was named on the bench for trips to Tottenham and Southampton before making his first appearance against Palace.
It was his first taste of what he calls "men's football." He stood out, even against the pace and trickery of the talented Zaha.
"I just thought I'm only going to get the chance to make my debut one time so you've got to make the most of it," he said.
"I tried not to be too hesitant and tried to play with confidence instead of nervousness.
"When you play with confidence, football is a lot easier. I tried to play my normal game and I felt like it helped. Especially playing against Wilfried Zaha on your debut, it's not easy.
"To be involved with the first team opens your eyes to how things run and how much of a big step it is going into a first team, especially at a club like Man United. Playing and training with those players on a regular basis helps you develop quite quickly. It's a faster tempo and you have to get used to it otherwise you're not going to look good enough."
Mitchell, who has represented England at youth level from Under-16 to U20, makes no secret of his desire to play more games at Old Trafford. But it was his experience against Palace nine months ago that led him to accept a temporary move to the Scottish Premiership during the January transfer window. "It's a dream come true making your debut for Man United but you can't stop there, you need to keep progressing," he added.
"I didn't have the chance to play many games this season and now it's the next step in my career to go out and play and get some games under my belt. Things didn't really materialise with me playing games from the summer to January and it was a case of, I made my debut last season and I'm not playing much this season so it was the right time for me to go on loan.
"Hearts showed the most interest and I thought they were the team that would give me the most game time. I went up and saw the facilities, saw the stadium and Craig Levein sold it to me. It's a good club.
"Moving up here, I've to take more ownership of what I do. I don't have family cooking for me or doing things like that. I've got to make sure I'm eating the right things."
His six games for Hearts have yielded four wins and a draw while he has also contributed to four clean sheets.
A flying left winger when he first joined United, he was converted into a left-back ahead of last season by academy chief Nicky Butt, who has been in regular contact with Mitchell since the youngster's move to Edinburgh.
"I feel like that's my position now. I feel at home at left-back or left wing-back. I've been playing there for over a year now. My defending has come on a lot and I feel comfortable going forward and defending.
"There was a bit of hesitation at first and I didn't know if it was the right thing for me because I'd never played there before but I think I took to it well.
"Nicky Butt was the one who first started playing me at left-back so I'd say he has been one of the biggest influences on my career.
"I've spoken to him a few times since I've been here -- he has just been saying 'keep it going and don't get complacent.'"
Mitchell has got two months left at Hearts before a summer break and then back at Carrington ahead of next season. His aim is to become a regular in Mourinho's first-team squad, but first he would like to return south with his first senior medal -- the first, he hopes, of many.
"I'm focused on trying to win the Scottish Cup. I want to help Hearts finish as high up in the table as possible because I know they're trying to get into Europe, which would be a big thing for the club. Then I'll to go back to United, evaluate how things are there and hopefully be in and around the first team, that's the plan.
"On a personal level, my dream is to become one of the best attacking full-backs in Europe and I do think it's possible.
"Right now, my main goal is to play as many games as possible in professional football and gain as much experience as I can before I go back to Manchester United."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.