Keep an eye on these ballers

The 5 players to look out for from Man Utd’s U18 league-winning squad

Manchester United’s men’s senior team might not have been up to scratch this season, but their under-18s have put together a truly historic campaign.

A club steeped in history, United have always had a huge amount of pride in their youth academy and its success. This season, their under-18 outfit – coached by Adam Lawrence – have achieved something special, winning 20 out of 24 games as they cruised their way to the U18 Premier League, before beating Chelsea in the final.

The young Red Devils have been near unstoppable throughout their season, beating their rivals along the way and famously thrashing Liverpool’s under-18s 9-1.

While there’s always a hope that the next big thing breaks through into the first team, this group is widely considered to be one of the most talented crops of talent the club has seen in a long time. We’d be seriously surprised if a few of these lads didn’t become seniors at United.

A few of them are already knocking on the door. With United needing to rebuild, we’ve highlighted five players who you should keep an eye on ahead of a potential first-team breakthrough.

Habeeb Ogunneye

Eighteen-year-old Ogunneye has split his time between the under-18s and the under-21s this season, while also enjoying a breakthrough into the first-team in recent weeks, making the bench several times for Ten Hag’s side.

A right-back by trade, the London-born defender has turned out for England at youth level and has long been a player who’s caught the eye at various youth levels for United. He combines a ridiculous pace with a brilliant eye for a cross and thrives when joining attacks.

Given how advanced he appears to be for his age and the fact that he’s already been noticed by the boss, we wouldn’t be surprised if a debut comes imminently. And considering United’s struggles at right-back, he’s got the chance to nail down a spot in the squad.

Ethan Wheatley

The 18-year-old local striker has been making waves all season and we’re already convinced he’s United’s next breakout star.

Manchester United's Ethan Wheatley celebrates victory in the penalty shoot-out following the EFL Trophy group stage match at Edgeley Park, Stockport. Picture date: Tuesday August 22, 2023

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Shea Lacey

If you haven’t heard about Shea Lacey in the last few months, you must be living under a rock. He signed his first professional contract with the club in April, but has been considered the crown jewel of the academy long before that.

Watching Lacey glide down the wing with the ball, cutting up defenders mercilessly gives you a certain feeling. Very few ballers are capable of it. They’re a special breed.

Blessed with wicked balance, the vision to spot gaps that don’t yet exist and a fearlessness to pry them open, he feels like the very definition of a United player.

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Finley McAllister

Local lad McAllister was the captain and driving force behind the under-18s success this season, leading from defensive midfield.

An old-school type footballer and a Salford-born United fan, McAllister goes home and away to follow the first team, but don’t let that unique trope distract you from the important stuff – he’s bloody good with a ball at his feet.

The 18-year-old feels wise beyond his years, understanding football and the throes of the game already.

United have lacked discipline, bite and passion in their midfield for years, but McAllister’s profile – both technically and as a leader – feels like the perfect piece to plug the gap with when the time is right.

He knows the club, he’s a leader among men and he’s got the passing maps to tie it all together.

Harry Amass

Another one you’ve probably heard rumblings about, and for good reason. The kid is a joke.

Amass joined United from Watford last summer having already made the bench for the Hornets at the age of 15, but has spent his first season at United honing his craft with the under-18s.

For a left-back, he simply shouldn’t be so talented, but he is. At just 17, Amass already feels scarily complete.

A brilliant defensive option, shutting out a variety of wingers at youth level this season, the teenager is also brilliant when carrying the ball out from the back and bursting beyond his own winger.

He’s already caught the eye of Ten Hag and has been training with the first team for much of 2024.

United’s current left-back situation is seriously alarming and the consensus is that a new signing is needed.

But under INEOS, perhaps the preference ought to be to recruit internally and give Amass some of those minutes next season, rotating him alongside Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia between their constant fitness struggles.