|Photo from Manchester United|
Manchester United’s youth policy is no secret to anyone. The club prides itself on excellent scouting and consistently promoting young talent into the first team setup year after year. This year is no different. Following the emergences of Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams from the U18 level last term — this season’s side is just as, if not even more packed with talent.
And so with the ongoing hiatus in football, we now have the perfect opportunity to take the freshest crop of youngsters under the loop. Over the next few weeks, we will be profiling and analyzing some of the most exciting prospects 18 and under currently at the club.
First up: Anthony Elanga
Date of Birth: 27/4/02
Preferred Foot: Right
Manchester United U18 & (U23) — Apps: 28 (9) | Goals: 10 | Assists: 8 (1)
Sweden U17 — Apps: 5 | Goals: 2
Elanga joined United in the summer of 2018 and he is a sight to behold when he gets on the ball in the vicinity of the touchline. The Swedish-born wide-man possesses blistering pace, adventurous skills and is as complete of a winger as one could be at the U18 level.
The youngster is also quite well developed physically as he nears his 18th birthday at the end of the month. He fits well into his 5ft8 frame, allowing him to utilize his natural capabilities to whiz past full-backs in the U18 Premier League.
Elanga was already showing glimpses of what he’s all about last year. He made a couple of appearances for the U23 side at the tail end of last season, but it was clear that the 2019/20 campaign was the one where the Swedish youth international would be poised to kick on and make a name for himself around Carrington.
For the most part, Elanga has done just that. His circumstances have not been ideal as he has struggled with injuries for some time this term, but when fit and playing, Elanga has been a consistent standout performer.
He has featured in nine games for the U18’s, scoring seven goals and providing three assists this season. Elanga has also made further appearances in the U23 side having been called up an age group six times and managing to provide one assist this term.
When fully healthy and on form, Elanga looks close to knocking on the first team’s door. Who knows, had he stayed healthy all season he might have even had a chance this year with the current lack of depth in the wide areas in the senior side.
Elanga is back to full fitness now and ready to continue his development and there is likely a structured plan in place for a player of his potential. And if the current season is not resumed, it’s safe to assume that it was Elanga’s last at this level. He has flourished and looks ready to keep climbing.
The next obvious step in his development is to become a regular at the U23 level next year. The opportunity to play against more physical opposition is going to be invaluable for the tricky Swede. Getting a full season under his belt should be one of Elanga’s priorities. Managing to stay healthy will bode well for his development and enable him to continue polishing out his game.
One of a few notable flaws in Elanga’s game right now is his decision making — something that’s quite common in youth football, especially for the attacking players who want to stand out. But, as a winger, your decision making has to be spot on. Goals are important in the modern game, but it is what you offer as a total package that matters most at the highest level.
Next season is set to be arguably the most important in Elanga’s young career thus far. He may have already done enough to throw his name into the hat of youth players in contention to be selected to go on the pre-season tour with the first team (if one takes place), but irregardless, his performances as an 18-year-old at the U23 level will determine how close he is to the first team set up for the long-term around this time next year.
As an out and out wide man, Elanga has all the tools to be a successful player at a high level. He has impressed United fans, particularly those heavily invested into youth football, and the ball is now fully in his court. Now, it’s time for his feet to continue to do the talking and it’s going to be interesting to monitor his progress in the years to come.