As Manchester United bloom with Academy talent, it’s time to check out the 5 next youngsters set to break into the first-team during the 20/21 season .
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promised chances for United Academy players upon taking over at Manchester United from the now Tottenham manager, Jose Mourinho, and we can safely say the Norwegian coach stayed true to his word .
Talents like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams established themselves in the first team setup over the campaign. Tahith Chong and James Garner also featured but went out on loan in the summer to Werner Bremen and Watford respectively. Axel Tuanzebe, who has also re-emerged following his promotion with Aston Villa in 2019 and remains sidelined, recovering from an injury. They’ve all impressed, in their own right, proving Solskjaer right in handing them opportunities to flourish on the big stage. Their continued success may even prompt more academy players to emerge in 2020/21.
The likely candidates that may feature during this season for Ole’s first team are as followed;
Anthony Elanga is a 17 year old with both Swedish and Cameroon citizenship. He is a left winger currently playing for the under 21’s Academy side. During his time in the youth setup he has tallied an impressive seven goals and three assists in just nine games for the under 18’s. The young upcoming talent has also appeared for the under 23’s team as has received praise from the first team’s coaching staff.
Elanga remains a part of the Manchester United’s system from July 2018, he will most likely become a regular feature for Neil Wood’s under 23’s side during the 20/21 campaign. However, a chance for first team action cannot be ruled out. Especially for the early stages of both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup.
There remains a sense of optimism of why Anthony is rated by Manchester United. Not only has the Swede got pace, but he possesses spectacular ball control and the directness that Ole desires in his first team forwards. He is still only 17 which means he is still very raw and needs to improve his play. He must become more consistent and the major thing he needs to work on is his decision making. Although this will improve with time and more experience.
The likely chances of him receiving a call up by Ole is 40%. Personally I believe he needs to bulk up as well as improving his decision making. So he has a below-average chance of being part of the first team. He also appeared and scored for the under 23’s 5-3 loss against rivals Liverpool on the 25th September in Premier League 2.
Hannibal is a French/Tunisian professional footballer who plays in the midfield position, preferrably the number 10 role. He joined the Red Devils Academy in August 2019 in an incredible deal struck with AS Monaco for 9.6 million euros after impressing with his performances in the UEFA Youth League. He has since settled into life at Carrington and enjoying life in Manchester.
Hannibal is definitely a rare talent to set foot on the pitch and he has impressed through the way he glides almost effortlessly across every inch of the football. Not to mention, he is only 17 years of age! Imagine what he can do when he is in his prime years! The very rare and impressive French international has spent the bulk of the previous season with Neil Wood’s under 18’s in Manchester, making thirteen appearances in all competitions.
The 17 year old emerging midfielder has played five times for the under 23’s, registering an assist in three consecutive matches in the Premier League 2 despite only starting once. Therefore, we’ll likely see more of him in Wood’s team that is full of untested, potential-class talent. He also appeared and scored for the under 23’s 5-3 loss against rivals Liverpool in the Premier League 2 division.
It is doubtful whether Mejbri will appear in Solskjaer first team for the upcoming team. Regardless, he is unquestionably on the right track to be an option for the early stages of the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup. In my opinion, I would love to see Hannibal emerge into the first team set up and given a chance he deserves just like Greenwood, Chong and Garner earned last season. I am giving him a 60% chance of getting a call up by Ole.
Ethan Laird is a 19 year old English right back. He has featured in the Academy since 2017 and already debutised for the senior team in two appearances. Both of which came in the Europa League last season and he may even appear in more over the next.
Solskjaer clearly rates the 19 year old Englishman over other right back options at the club. He has honed his defensive instincts and looks a more experienced player than his age or the media suggest. In the two senior appearances that Laird participated it showed the great potential that the young international has. He has impressed everyone at United from the players to the coaching staff and I believe we will see more of him in the first team.
Ethan Laird’s best position is at right back, not only due to his pace but he is also great defensively and has the capacity to bomb forward, linking up well with the attack. He is an all-round right back just like Trent at Liverpool. Hopefully, us fans will see more of his attributes for the upcoming season, for that reason I am giving him an 80% chance of him getting a call up and playing minutes in the first XI. Ethan Laird has also played with the first team during last season against Rochdale in the League Cup.
Ole recently called up 18 year-old Teden Mengi to the first team squad at Manchester United. The England international featured in the first team squad a few times last season. The first being in the 2-1 loss to Astana in the Europa League along with many others. He did not take part in the game, Ole opting for Bernard and Tuanzebe. But it was clear that he impressed Ole in his debut against LASK and is not that far away I don’t think.
Mengi has various crucial attributes in his game that he definitely needs in football, especially playing for United. These skills include being aerial prowess in both boxes, his impressive strength and yard of pace. The Manchester-born star is also improving on reading the game and looks composed on the ball and in his passing. Everything United are lacking in the first team defence currently. I personally believe he could be Harry Maguire’s partner for the next 5 years if he keeps improving.
Overall, during the 19/20 campaign season it has been a solid one for the young talented superstar. The English centre back earned a promotion to the under 23’s at the start of last season. During that time, he has started in 14/15 appearances in the youth Premier League. Due to his raw talent and rapid development, he helped United’s u23’s achieve 2nd place in the PL 2.
Part of the reason why Teden Mengi rose to the under 23’s squad was due to the exit of Lee O’Connor to Celtic reserves in September 2019. Since then, he has impressed the whole of United’s fanbase and coaching staff with his performances.
At the start of August 2020, the manager of the under 23’s announced his squad for the upcoming season and Mengi’s name remained absent. The reason for his exclusion was because Solskjaer opted to call him up to the senior squad.
For this reason, I guarantee he will play more senior games under Ole. I personally believe Teden Mengi stands out from the other four Academy players we could see this season. He will be starting more games and having his break out season. I believe he has the attributes and skills that United are lacking in the centre back positions. This is clearly shown by the end of last season as well as the start of this one too. Manchester United need a centre back like Teden Mengi this season. Desperately.
Arnau Puigmal is a 19 year old Academy midfielder from Spain. He has played in both the under 21’s and 23’s team, impressing the first team coach staff. United knew they bagged a real prospect in the young Spanish midfielder upon signing him back in 2017 from Espanola. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long until he gets a glimpse of first team football by Ole.
However, Puigmal may be better served loaned out to a Championship or lower-level Premier League club for the 20/21 season. He could play the whole of the campaign with the under 23’s again but would not help his development sky-rocket. He is an exceptional talent and a great prospect for Manchester United. All he needs is that extra push and somebody to give him a chance to show his class more openly.
One of the teens standout traits is his ability to cover several roles successfully all over the pitch. He thrived as a right-back during the 18/19 season for the U18s before adopting a central midfield role for the U23s during the 19/20 season. He really impressed the managers of the under 18’s and 23’s and Ole also praised the youngster’s skills and attributes.
The Spain U19 international can also play as a winger and a defensive midfielder. Maybe Ole will give him that chance to shine this season in one or more of these roles. I reckon Arnau will have a 40% chance of receiving a first team call up. This is because the position he plays is fully covered. However, I am sure he will receive at least one call-up.
Out of the five Academy youngsters that could feature in the starting XI for United this season, the most likely is Tegen Mengi. He possesses all the attributes and skills that Ole is in dire need from in the current squad; the ability to bomb forward and to track back and crucially, the pace needed to compliment Maguire’s lack of. So my pick is Tegen Mendi and I cannot wait to see him in action for Ole’s tricky reds.