How Man Utd’s eight wonderkids on FM2020 are developing IRL this season
Manchester United are renowned for their record of developing youngsters, and that has continued in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era.
According to FMScout.com‘s list of Football Manager 2020’s 650 Wonderkids, eight are currently on the Red Devils’ books. That’s defined as “players with high potential ability who are not older than 20 years old on July 1, 2019”.
Here’s how they’re getting on in real life.
Already a fan favourite, it already looks a safe bet that 19-year-old Brandon Williams could represent United for many years to come, having burst through this season with full-blooded performances on the left flank.
Williams looks capable of replacing Luke Shaw as the club’s first-choice left-back and recently signed a new long-term contract at Old Trafford.
He might just be the answer to a question they’ve been pondering since Patrice Evra left in 2014.
After joining as a 19-year-old for a reported fee of £19million, Diogo Dalot made 16 Premier League appearances last season, but opportunities have been largely limited to the domestic cups and Europa League this season.
He’s made just one Premier League start and was hooked at the hour mark for Marcos Rojo in the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle back in October.
The right-back has recently been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Everton reportedly vying for his signature.
The Basingstoke-born defender still awaits his regular opportunities for the senior team, still largely turning out for the youth side – he’s a regular in the academy team that competed against lower Football League sides in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Laird’s first-team debut wasn’t one to remember, a 2-1 defeat away to Astana in the Europa League group stage, with his second coming off the bench in a 4-0 win over AZ Alkmaar in the same competition.
He was promoted to first-team training in July 2020 and is part of their squad for the Europa League knockout stages.
United reportedly paid over £4million to take highly-rated French prospect Hannibal Mejbri from Monaco in the summer, when he was just 16 years of age. That fee could potentially rise to £8.7million.
Mejbri is still developing and getting a taste of English football – with plenty of physical attention from Leeds United’s youngsters in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup and their fans chanting he’s “a sh*t sideshow bob”.
While it might still be a while before he’s featuring for the seniors, he’s receiving rave reviews from the youth coaches and regular watchers.
“Hannibal’s a leader. The way he plays his football is 100mph, he’s non-stop running up and down,” head of first-team development Nicky Butt told the Manchester Evening News.
“He’s got his own path. We make sure when we sign players we always speak to the parents and give them an example of all different ways of getting into Man United’s first-team.”
Hannibal Mejbri vs Lincoln City (FA Youth cup) pic.twitter.com/FY4d0STLYw
— AD (@UTDFuture) December 15, 2019
Another one getting minutes for the senior team in the cup competitions, James Garner has been limited to just one eight-minute cameo off the bench in the Premier League.
The 19-year-old midfielder has mostly been continuing his progress with the Under-23s and won the PL2 Goal of the Season award for his strike against West Brom in August 2019.
S p e c t a c u l a r 💥
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 31, 2020
The Feyenoord Academy graduate continues to get the odd game in the cups or off the bench, with 12 appearances in all competitions this season, but he’s perhaps not come on along as quickly as some might have expected.
However, he has shown glimpses of his talent in the Europa League, setting up goals in back-to-back 5-0 wins over Club Brugge and LASK.
It’s been a source of frustration for many United fans that Angel Gomes struggled for first-team opportunities in 2019-20, making just three starts in all competitions.
The England Under-20 international rejected a new contract at Old Trafford and joined French club Lille on a free transfer at the end of the season.
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) August 4, 2020
Talked up as the crown jewel of the academy, Greenwood has been well and truly living up to the hype as he’s steadily becoming a first-team regular for Solskjaer’s side this season.
With 17 goals in all competitions, he’s averaging a goal every 147.2 minutes in 2019-20, and that’s without mentioning his ability to be United’s one-man tribute to Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben.