A club like Manchester United is widely known for playing free-flowing, attacking football and winning trophies. As a result of that, the academy often tends to be a little top heavy in favor of talented forwards.
In this week’s Academy Watch, we will take a look at arguably one of the most exciting U18 players in the world. 16-year-old Shola Shoretire began knock on United’s U18 team’s door as a 14-year-old after being a constant standout in the lower age groups, and despite being significantly undersized — he’s been able to consistently show flashes of brilliance.
Date of Birth: 2/2/2004
Preferred Foot: Right
Manchester United U18 — Apps: 17 | Goals: 1 | Assists: 3
England U16 — Apps: 2
Shoretire is very much one for the future, and likely not the immediate one. But with that said, who knows in football, right? The nifty forward is still around a year away from the age at which Mason Greenwood’s name began to fill out the headlines on a regular basis and meanwhile, he’s shown similar kind of potential in the lower age groups.
His 17 appearances in United’s U18 side despite only just turning 16 in February of this year should tell you everything you need to know. Similarly to Greenwood, Shoretire is quickly outgrowing youth levels appropriate to his age with his natural talent and raw ability. In addition, a fun fact to add here is that Shoretire made his UEFA Youth League debut for United (U18 competition) at the age of 14.
Shoretire’s stats for the U18’s this season are by no means jaw dropping. But again, more often than not, statistics alone don’t tell the whole story with youth players and their development. It is understandable that every youth prospect will now be compared to Greenwood because of what he was able to do at each level. But, it is also worth nothing that Greenwood is a generational talent. Nobody has ever put up the kind of numbers he did at youth level. And, Shoretire is not a striker.
Shoretire’s overall game and how well he has adapted to playing with and against players bigger than him this season is what’s the biggest point of notice. And having made his U18 debut two years ago, he looks very comfortable on the pitch.
He can play anywhere across the front line but has been occupying the flanks for the United youth sides this term. The young Englishman who also holds a Nigerian citizenship boasts excellent ball control and the ability to beat his man with ease despite being at a natural disadvantage in physical 1 v. 1 duels. He’s deceivingly quick and technically very sound, possessing an impressive passing range for a wide player.
The 16-year-old, who is currently still on a scholarship contract with United, is also a very good finisher. Shoretire showed off his composure in front of goal in perhaps United’s U18’s biggest moment this season as he bagged a cool opener in the FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Wigan. United won the game 2-1 and will be facing Chelsea in semis should football recommence.
These little things and the infinite signs of what’s to come have already earned Shoretire a professional contract pre-agreement at United. The winger has already put pen to paper on the deal meaning that as soon as he turns 17 he will turn pro at the club. United have done well with spotting potential future stars in the last few years and this was a smart another move from the board in order to secure Shoretire’s future in red and fend off any interest from other clubs; and there were suitors aplenty.
With Shoretire already a regular at the U18 level, next season is going to be very interesting in terms of his development. Currently not quite there yet to be in contention for the pre-season tour, all eyes will be on the teenagers progress at his age group. Shoretire has been way ahead of the curve at every age level that he has belonged to thus far, and as a rightful U18 next year, he will have a chance to make another massive statement with his performances.
Regularity and improved goal contributions at the U18 level next season will undoubtedly score him call ups into the U23 side, too. Therefore, next season will be a huge one for Shoretire. As aforementioned, 17 was the age at which Greenwood really broke through into the mainstream media. Shoretire’s talent is considered to be of a similar caliber and so the new campaign will answer a few questions to many excited United fans.