Struggling Manchester United defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson needs to demonstrate a big improvement in order to prove to Paul Lambert that he is worthy of more regular opportunity at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 20-year-old has made just seven appearances since arriving at Molineux on a season-long loan deal in August 2016, all of which came under former manager Walter Zenga and caretaker boss Rob Edwards.
Borthwick-Jackson has not featured at all in the Championship since starting an eventful 3-2 home defeat to Derby County on 5 November. His only inclusion in a matchday squad since Lambert's appointment as head coach came a month later, when he was left as an unused substitute in a thrilling eight-goal draw against Fulham.
"I think Cameron is falling short at the minute," Lambert was quoted as saying by The Express and Star. "He would have to show a lot more. He's doing alright in training but there's more he has to do."
Presumably frustrated by a lack of opportunities offered to their academy graduate, United obtained special dispensation a fortnight ago for Borthwick-Jackson to feature for Nicky Butt's U23 side in a Premier League International Cup meeting with FC Porto.
The full-back played the entire 90 minutes of a 2-0 loss at Leigh Sports Village before returning to Wolves training.
"It's a bit of lack of fitness as well, even though he's played in the under-23s," Lambert added. "At this moment in time he needs more."
Borthwick-Jackson, another product of prolific Didsbury-based junior club Fletcher Moss Rangers, appeared 14 times for the United first-team under Louis van Gaal after making his senior debut in a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in November 2015. Last May, the former U21 Player of the Year was rewarded for that breakthrough campaign with a new four-year contract that includes the option of a further 12 months.
Speaking on Borthwick-Jackson's situation before Christmas, Lambert described him as a "tidy and nice footballer" but stressed his preference for players with more experience. He also suggested that a decision on the England U20 international's future would be made after January talks with sporting director Kevin Thelwell, amid reports that United were planning to exercise their recall option.
Borthwick-Jackson could yet be afforded the chance to impress a third Wolves manager in the space of a single season, with Lambert already coming under fire after only four months in the job despite a run to the fifth round of the FA Cup that included a memorable 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield. A narrow loss to play-off contenders Reading on Saturday (4 March) was the club's fifth consecutive league defeat and left them hovering just one point above the relegation zone in 21st place.