Jesurun Rak-Sakyi reveals the moment he knew he was starting for Crystal Palace against Manchester United

Jesurun Rak-Sakyi has spoken openly about how he felt when he was told he would be making his first senior start for Crystal Palace against Manchester United.

The 19-year-old winger, who was voted Palace’s Under-23 Player of the Season for his sparkling season in Premier League 2 last month, made his first-team debut against Chelsea on the opening day of the season. He then had to wait 10 months before getting his next taste of senior action when Patrick Vieira told him he would face United on the final day at Selhurst Park.

Rak-Sakyi played at right flank and played for 67 minutes before coming on for Cheikhou Kouyate to make it 1-0. The teenager received a standing ovation from the home fans as his number went up the board and took full admiration from Selhurst Park as he walked off the pitch.

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“I found out just before kick-off, about an hour before,” Rak-Sakyi said of the moment he knew he was going to start. “When I saw that, I was a bit nervous. But at the same time, all the guys helped me and told me to be confident, so it was really good of them.

“The majority of them just said be confident because I came here for a reason, so I shouldn’t change my game. I should just play the way I played and I’ll be fine. It’s an incredible feeling. I was really comfortable. As the game progressed, I started to gain more confidence. It was really good.”

Rak-Sakyi has just wrapped up a stellar season for Paddy McCarthy’s U23s, in which he finished as Premier League 2’s top scorer with 18 goals in 25 games and narrowly missed out on player of the season against Manchester City’s James McAtee. The winger has trained sporadically with Palace’s first-team throughout the season and should build on his debut off the bench against Chelsea in the latter games of the season.

“I don’t complain if I don’t get a start, but I’m always ready when I need to be called,” he added. “I’ve blown my socks off for the U23s – week in and week out – and I’m just lucky enough that I got the chance. We wanted to concede a goal and we wanted to continue to perform well here because the fans deserve it – it was just a great performance from the team.”

Asked what coach Patrick Vieira has taught him since working more closely with the Frenchman, Rak-Sakyi said: “Be confident. That we shouldn’t change our games when we come down the road and that will just make us better and build more confidence as a team.

“I just like to be myself. Of course I’m watching a lot of the Premier League’s best wingers right now, but I’m just trying to base my game on myself and express myself in the way I know I grew up and I have played.”

Crystal Palace and Rak-Sakyi now face the difficult decision of whether to continue the winger’s development at club or loan him out to gain first-team experience further down the football pyramid. There is an assumption in SE25 that Palace made a mistake in not letting him out on loan in January, although as Vieira previously outlined, finding a suitable club is a difficult challenge.

“If we send a payer on loan, we should know everything about the club we are sending the player to,” said the Frenchman. “Some of the players have to keep playing week after week and make mistakes that allow them to grow and learn as players. We need to find the right place for these young players to improve.

“Finding the right place to send a player on loan is one of the most difficult tasks. You have to find the right club where the players will play.

“You have to find the club that allows players to make mistakes but keep playing. But we all know that sometimes a mistake can cost a manager’s job, so it’s difficult. We have to think and work well to make it happen to try.” and find the right place to develop the players.”

Rak-Sakyi only thinks about improvements for the next campaign. “I just hope to do better than me this season,” he said. “I just build on every season – bigger and better things. Hopefully I’ll get more chances and more enjoyable moments like this.”

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