Reading have pulled off quite the coup by landing Manchester United youngster Charlie Savage on a permanent deal. The 20-year-old central midfielder has agreed a four-year contract with the Royals, which feels like a real Affirmation of the long-term project Reading are building this summer.
There’s no word at the moment as to the price, amid a general lack of clarity over whether Reading are allowed to pay transfer fees. We do know that the Royals have agreed to a significant sell-on and commitment to United being able to match any bid for Savage if they want to re-sign him. It could be that, with those conditions being in play, United have decided that The Best Thing for them to do is allow Savage to move on a free. After all, they’d stand to bank a lot of money anyway when Savage is eventually sold on.
News of a move emerged on July 19, with Reading reported to be Truly, Madly, Deeply in the running for Savage’s signature alongside Championship clubs Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City, as well as League One peers Wigan Athletic. However, the story really picked up on July 20 when multiple sources said Savage was bound for Reading, before a medical was scheduled in the following day.
Head of football operations Mark Bowen said:
“We are delighted to secure Charlie’s signature and this represents a big coup for Reading Football Club. His decision to entrust this club with the next stage of his fledgling career speaks volumes about the project we are building here.
“Charlie is a young man who is already beginning to realise his potential and it will be exciting to see him continue to elevate his game under Rubén’s guidance. He arrives with bags of talent, with a clear desire to keep learning, and intent on making an impact as a senior footballer at Reading.”
If you’re wondering about that surname, yep, Charlie is the son of Robbie Savage, who himself has quite the history with Reading. Robbie once played in goal for Derby County at the Madejski Stadium (despite being an outfielder), on another occasion stripped to his underwear after throwing his shirt into the away end for his last-ever professional appearance, and once even performed a Strictly Come Dancing routine at half-time of a Reading/Derby match. Now, Charlie can Carry On Dancing at Reading.
Charlie Savage joins Reading as a raw but exciting talent. Mostly restricted to academy game time, he made his debut for Manchester United in the Champions League, replacing Juan Mata late on against Young Boys.
The vast majority of his senior experience has come at Forest Green Rovers. Savage spent the second half of 2022/23 there, showing promise in his 15 appearances, but without being able to keep them in League One. He also scored his first professional goal for Forest Green in a 3-1 loss to Bristol Rovers.
Stylistically, Charlie Savage describes himself as being comfortable technically, in contract to his dad being more tenacious. However, the youngster came in for high praise from Duncan Ferguson, his manager at Forest Green, who said after an impressive 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday:
“He’s been fantastic for me. On Sunday [against Sheffield Wednesday] he covered more than 12 kilometres. He was wearing the vest that tracks his distance. That’s incredible. He’s 19 years old, what an engine he’s got. And he’s a good player.”
“He’s like his dad. Enthusiastic, runs around. He was the highest-distance player on Sunday so that just shows you the character of the kid.”
Those qualities will stand Savage in good stead at Reading, with new manager Ruben Selles requiring energy in the middle of the park if his pressing system is to work. That said, given that Savage is a young talent, it could be that he needs patience before he really hits his stride. Don’t expect him to Crash And Burn, but also don’t expect him to excel consistently from the off.
He’s Reading’s fourth new addition of the summer so far, joining Harvey Knibbs, Sam Smith and fellow central midfielder Lewis Wing in signing for the Royals. All fit the mould of being energetic, hard-working but gifted players who have both League One experience and some longer-term potential too.
(Apologies for the Savage Garden references. I couldn’t help myself).