Manchester United have a proud record of developing youngsters, and that continues in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era.
According to Football Manager 2020’s list of 650 Wonderkids, as compiled by FMScout.com, 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.
Solskjaer has often accommodated him as more of a wing-back while moving Luke Shaw into a back three, but Williams looks capable of winning the battle to become the club’s first-choice left-back.
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 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.
His 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.
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 in the PL2 Division 2 this season. Midway through the season, Solskjaer was asked whether he’d be better served developing his game out on loan, but the United manager has decided to keep tabs on him in-house.
The Feyenoord Academy graduate continues to get the odd game in the cups or off the bench, with 11 appearances in all competitions this season, but he’s perhaps not come on along as quickly as some might have expected.
However, he was brought on for Daniel James in United’s last two Europa League matches and has set 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 has struggled for first-team opportunities this season, with a reported contract dispute rumbling on in the background.
The England Under-20 international is yet to sign a new deal and could potentially move elsewhere on a free transfer this summer. That could prove to be a source of regret, given he looks a dynamic, incisive attacking midfielder.
Angel Gomes 19/20 highlights (senior appearances) pic.twitter.com/No8opJPHc2
— TJ (@CohleRust11) March 19, 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 getting more and more chances for Solskjaer’s side this season.
With five goals in the Premier League and five more in the Europa League, he’s averaging a goal every 110 minutes between the two competitions. A lethal finisher with intelligent movement in the box, he’s already bringing plenty to United’s attack.