Youth Cup-winning wonder-kids who have shot at Man Utd success
It’s been a forgettable and, quite frankly, lamentable year for Manchester United at senior level. That’s not been the case further down the pecking order though, with their youngsters going all the way in the recent FA Youth Cup. We know the Red Devil’s have a history of bringing on youth – such as the Class of 92 – but how many of this recent bunch are likely to make the grade at Old Trafford? Here we look at those that we feel have the best shot.
Alejandro Garnacho, Striker
If there was one name being muttered from the lips of Man United fans as the 67k exited Old Trafford after their under 18s dispatched of Nottingham Forest it was Alejandro Garnacho. The 17-year-old was awarded with the team’s Player of the Year award before kick-off wasn’t remotely overawed by the occasion netting two goals, pulling out Cristiano Ronaldo’s SIU celebration and constantly being a threat to the Forest backline.
In terms of player profile, Garnacho is someone that plays with real dynamism and energy. That’s two qualities that will appeal to United’s new boss Erik Ten Hag. If the former Atletico Madrid youngster can continue to impress then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get some senior minutes in the cup competitions in the coming season. He’s already had a call up to the Argentinian senior squad too!
Charlie McNeill, Striker
Garnacho might have stole the limelight in the cup final but, make no mistake about it, the United coaching staff are just as excited – if not more so – about Charlie McNeill. The 18-year-old is a born and bred United fan but has been subjected to a tug of war between both Manchester clubs and has spent time with both after starting in the red half as a ‘proper’ kid.
Regardless of the colour McNeill has donned though, he has bagged goals with a total haul believed to be over 600 throughout the youth systems. United made a play for their boyhood fan in 2020 and he agreed to come back to the club he loves. He hasn’t disappointed; McNeill has found the back of the net with consummate ease and hasn’t looked out of place when lining up for the Under 23s in the EFL trophy. He even scored against League One side Lincoln City.
Isak Hansen, Midfielder
Will Isak Hansen make a breakthrough into Manchester United’s team in 2022/23? No, probably not. He may well do further down the line though. His technical ability and ability to effortlessly coast around the pitch have seen him likened to some of the best central midfield players of the generation. Watching the recent cup final you can see why people hype him up too; he oozed calm on the ball and dictated the tempo of the match.
There is a downside to Hansen’s game though, which is his physicality. He’s played men’s football in his homeland of Norway already and certainly doesn’t lack endeavour but stepping into Man United’s midfield would be a huge ask. That said, he’s only 17-years-old and still developing physically as well as technically. When that physicality comes, which it will, he has a very high ceiling.
Marc Jurado, Right Back
Marc Jurado might only be 18-years-old but if the summer transfer window doesn’t go exactly to plan for Ten Hag you wonder whether his name might sneak into the first team picture on occasion. There are two first team right backs at the club at the moment in Aaron Wan Bissaka and Diogo Dalot but neither exactly impress and nor do they seem like Ten Hag type players. Jurado does.
The right back came through the La Masia system at Barcelona, which tells you all you need to know about how comfortable he’ll be in possession of the football. On top of that, he enjoys playing high up the pitch to the point where he’s even been used in midfield for the youth side. With attacking desires and confidence on the ball, he’s certainly got potential to be in and around the squad albeit likely as cover initially.
Radek Vitek, Goalkeeper
We’ve touched on the crowd at Old Trafford for the Youth Cup final when talking about Garnacho. He came out of the game with all the headlines and plenty of hype. It would probably be fair to say that wasn’t the case for Radek Vitek, an 18-year-old keeper who joined United from SK Sigma Olomouc in the summer of 2020, as he dropped a clanger to allow Nottingham Forest to score.
Scratch below that error though and you will quickly see why the Manchester United hierarchy are so fond of Vitek. For one thing, he’s a kid that’s just made a mistake in the biggest game of his young career and he responded by puffing out his chest before going on to turn in a flawless performance from there on out. The other is his ability; the bog standard line for a keeper is about their reflexes and shot stopping ability but rarely do you see a youngster so good at commanding their area.
Kobbie Mainoo, Midfielder
Have we saved the best until last? In Kobbie Mainoo, possibly. He joined the United academy as a six-year-old having been born locally, has been in the setup for 10 years and has just penned his first pro deal. He ‘gets’ United. Throughout his time with the club, he’s long been lauded as having the potential to be a star in the first team and those signs remain in place as time ticks on.
Mainoo likes to operate in a deeper midfield position – a key position in a Ten Hag setup – where he can spray probing passes from to set his side on the front foot. He’s not all about the killer pass though as he’s more than comfortable to progressively carry the ball too whilst he’s not one to shirk a tackle either. At 16, 2022/23 might be too soon given how important the season is going to be for United but never say never.
There you have it, a look at some of the stars of the future where Manchester United are concerned.