There is immense pressure on every youth prospect who catches the eye in Manchester United’s academy, given the club’s fantastic history of producing in-house talent.
Not every prospect is going to make the cut at United and there have been a few big misses in more recent years, but since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made an effort to reset things at the club and Erik ten Hag arrived and stamped his authority around the place, there have been a number of talents blossoming once more.
We’ve taken a look at the academy talent and highlighted six players who could find themselves knocking down the door and breaking through this season.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. An unfortunate injury derailed a seriously promising pre-season campaign for the midfielder, who won United’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award last season.
The 18-year-old Mainoo already struts around the pitch like a veteran and spent last season quietly learning around the first team in training. When he recovers from his current injury, don’t be surprised when Ten Hag swiftly integrates him into his matchday squads and starting XIs.
The kid has all the tools to become a United great.
The young Englishman headed into pre-season with promise, but seriously staked his claim when given the chance to play with a catalogue of tidy highlights.
Gore, also 18, has played most of his football in an advanced role at youth level but looked seriously comfortable picking the ball up deep off United’s defenders in pre-season, before progressing play with assurance.
He looked particularly strong in a showing against Athletic Club in Dublin – a performance that might have earned him a spot in the squad for United’s opening game of the Premier League season.
With plenty of football to play and Ten Hag still trying to perfect his midfield, Gore could find himself in the first team with increasing regularity.
United fans have been mightily impressed with Alvaro Fernandez’s pre-season performances at left-back, but expect the teenager to head out on loan once again after a strong campaign at Preston last season.
That could leave the door open for Spanish colleague Jurado to stake his claim. Operating on the opposite flank, the 19-year-old right-back scored as a youthful side lost to Wrexham in San Diego and comes highly regarded as a Spanish under-20 with a footballing education from La Masia.
Jurado boats a plethora of technical attributes which include being strong in possession of the ball and being comfortable occupying high positions.
Given the uncertainty that continues to exist at right-back with neither Aaron Wan-Bissaka nor Diogo Dalot able to permanently make the position their own, a few League Cup appearances might just be all he needs to stake his claim.
Sixteen-year-old Lacey continues to dazzle in United’s youth ranks, breaking ankles and spinning defenders into orbit increasingly often.
The less said, the better. Go and find out exactly why he’s so special for yourself. Won’t be long before Ten Hag catches wind.
A surprise name to many – including a lot of United fans before this summer – Emeran made his way out to the States and played a strong part in their pre-season campaign, making a scoring start in their first game against Leeds and improving from there.
The versatile forward seemed to earn the trust of the boss and featured again after the tour of the US was over, replacing Gore from the bench against Athletic Club.
Emeran is now 20 and could possibly benefit from a loan, but with United still somewhat short on numbers in the striker department and Ten Hag having seen what he can do, the window could be open for a breakout season.
McNeill made headlines soon after signing for United in 2020 from rivals Manchester City for a reported £750,000 fee.
He arrived with a reputation as a rampant goalscorer at your level and absolutely delivered on that reputation for the Red Devils, scoring 24 times in his first season at under-18 level.
There has been plenty of fuss made about the striker as a result, with fans expecting big things from the 19-year-old.
He spent the second half of last season out on loan at Newport and didn’t quite set alight as some may have hoped, before missing out on a chance to stake his claim for the pre-season tour due to an injury.
However, he’s now back fit and has been firing them in with a vengeance once again at youth level. McNeill is likely to attract loan interest from big sides or feature for United’s under-21s.
But with that striker spot still a rather large grey area in Ten Hag’s first-team setup, there’s no reason why his firing rate can’t hotshot him into the first-team picture this season. He’s certainly got the potential.