There’s always the next star lurking on the fringes of the first team at Manchester United, yet precious few of them make the grade, except in exceptional circumstances such as the famous “Class of 92”.
However, one of the arguably few things United got right in recent years is to invest heavily in European youth stars in the 16-17 year old age bracket before the Brexit window closed, and that investment is now close to reaching fruition. This means that the medium-term future of the next 2-4 years is looking very promising for the Red Devils.
The team below is just an example and doesn’t even show a number of supremely talented youngsters, such as Tyler Fredricson (on the bench for United’s Europa league match against Real Sociedad), Isak Aaroen-Hansen, Ethan Ennis, Marc Jurado, Willy Kambwala, Omari Forson, Charlie Savage, Shola Shoretire, Kobbie Mainoo and Joe Hugill.
The players underlined on the graphic are particularly exciting talents. Alvaro Fernandes, on loan at Preston, is arguably the pick of the defenders. He was snatched from Real Madrid’s youth ranks in 2020, much to los Blancos’ disdain.
Most fans by now have also seen Alejandro Garnacho, stolen from Real’s neighbours Atletico Madrid, also in 2020. He is probably the most exciting attacking player to come through the academy since Mason Greenwood and we will surely be seeing more of him this season, especially if Anthony Elanga – another name who could be added to the list – continues to struggle.
Zidane Iqbal showed on United’s pre-season tour what he can do and is already reportedly a big favourite of Erik ten Hag, who has chosen to keep him at Old Trafford this season. It’s expected that he will get his chance in the first team and there is every indication that he’s ready for the big stage.
Amad Diallo’s talent is unquestionable but the big issue is how to harness it. When he arrived from Atalanta it looked like he was going to take the world by storm, but disappointing loan spells since then have seen his progress falter. If Tony Mowbray can find the key during the Ivorian’s loan spell at Sunderland this season, United could have a world-class winger on their hands.
It was also no surprise that Ten Hag also gave a debut last week to Charlie McNeill on the eve of his 19th birthday. McNeill is another poached youngster, having been the big hope of neighbours Manchester City before crossing Manchester to join the Red Devils. He scored an incredible 24 goals in 21 games in 2020/21 which accelerated his promotion to the Under 21s. Last season he was used sparingly and so wasn’t as prolific, but the potential is immense.
Even if just two or three of these young hopefuls make the grade, it bodes extremely well for United going forward.
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