McAllister knows what it means...

Man Utd’s match-going academy captain is a midfield machine ready to restore the feeling

Manchester United have lacked everything one can think of in the years following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but the one attribute that deserts them the most is a sense of identity.

It’s a cliche – and a tiresome one considering most of United’s demise can be put down to abhorrent spending and mismanagement – but with that has come along a deep identity crisis.

‘This is Man United’ is these days merely a stick used to poke fun at the Red Devils or a phrase used for lazy analysis of their demise, but it also holds some weight if you can read between the lines of Gary Neville’s thousands of podcasts and Roy Keane’s rants.

Somewhere along the way, United lost their DNA. Out was the pride of the community and promoting young, local talent and in was a desperate desire to be a commercial behemoth above all else.

That’s resulted in some fun transfer windows over the years, but not much else. Instead, plenty of red-hot youth talents have fallen by the wayside or slipped under the radar and thrived away from the club.

But with Erik ten Hag facing injury crisis and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s super team ready to pick up the pieces of Glazer torment, a star has emerged from their famed academy, ready to restore the club at its core – youth, courage, success.

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Finley McAllister was born in Salford mere months after Chelsea had won their second successive Premier League title and fear coursed through the veins of English football, with many thinking Jose Mourinho might’ve dethroned Ferguson for good.

They were wrong. McAllister would just about be walking and talking as he rebuilt the Red Devils into one of his greatest teams ever through the late 2000s, winning the Champions League for the third time in the club’s history and reaching another two finals, after going on a run of three Premier League titles in a row.

But that’s not the McAllister United would grow up with. At just 17, his story of supporting the club thus far has been a challenging one, growing up with the back end of greatness, but a lot more hurt and lack of identity.

Thankfully, the local lad – who goes home and away to watch the first team with his peers – is changing that from within, captaining the club at various youth levels and notably making his debut for the under-18s at just 14 years old.

A midfielder by trade, his style of play – carrying the ball with a purpose and tackling with tenacity – is reminiscent of a young Roy Keane on profile alone.

Getting anywhere near the level the Irishman reached would be one hell of an accomplishment, but when you watch McAllister strut his stuff, it’s hard not to be impressed.

Watching those clips of him shrugging off opposition players, slaloming through gaps and zapping the ball around the field is exhausting – mainly because it’s the type of thing we all try and do at Powerleague but to no avail, instead leaving the cage gagging for a Lucozade and a lie down after 3o minutes.

For McAllister, though, it all appears effortless. A natural in and out of possession, what is also impressive is how he carries the weight of the United shirt and armband, continually punching above his weight and always probing within games to force his side ahead.

Given he spends his free time following the seniors home and away, it’s not lost on him – a match-going, local supporter – exactly what it takes to represent such a historic club properly.

McAllister would provide a breath of fresh air in an often lifeless United side and inject them with some much-needed DNA once again.

It’s early days for the 17-year-old, who has featured just twice in the Premier League 2 with the under-21 side this season.

But with a summer of development and perhaps a change in strategy at the club after a disappointing 2023-24 campaign, there’s a world where he’s drafted into the squad he spends his weekends watching to show them exactly what it means to be a United player.

By Mitch Wilks