Seven insanely talented U-18 players that could save Man Utd’s future

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Manchester United's Kobbie Mainoo. Leigh Sports Village, December 2021.

While Manchester United aren’t in a great position right now, there is hope for the future as they have a hugely exciting crop of young players coming through the academy.

Anthony Elanga has recently established himself in the first team and United’s Under-18s have reached the FA Youth Cup final for the first time since 2011.

We’ve taken a look at seven of United’s best players that are currently aged 18 or under.

Alejandro Garnacho

Signed from Atletico Madrid’s academy in September 2020, Garnacho has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months.

The left winger is renowned for his blistering pace and trickery with the ball at his feet, regularly taking on defenders before cutting inside on his right foot. 

He has played a key role in United’s run to the FA Youth Cup final, registering five goals and three assists in five appearances in the competition.

The 17-year-old has also made a few appearances for their Under-23s in Premier League 2 and scored a brace in a 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers.

Despite representing Spain at youth level, Garnacho has recently been named in Argentina’s preliminary squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Ecuador.

“He’s a talented boy,” United academy boss Nick Cox said in March 2022. “I think some of his performances have caught the eye. He’s one of many talented boys we’ve got. We’ve been in constant dialogue with him about what he might do.

“This is pretty fresh news. He’s yet to make a decision. I know he’s proud of his heritage, he’s proud of both countries. I think he’s honoured that both countries have an interest in him.

“And, really, the take-home message for me is ‘You’re doing OK if you’ve got two countries that are interested in selecting you.'”

Alejandro Garnacho playing for Manchester United in the UEFA Youth League.. Leigh Sports Village. December 2021.

READ: All hail Alejandro Garnacho: SIUUU-ing like Ronaldo & scoring like Bale

Alvaro Fernandez

Despite being offered a new contract by Real Madrid, Fernandez decided to leave Spain and join United’s academy in 2020. 

The 18-year-old has everything in his locker to become the perfect modern-day full-back, combining his defensive skills with a massive attacking threat down the left flank.

He’s become one of the first names on the team sheet for United’s Under-23s and has recently been training with the senior side.

Charlie McNeill

With Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial all facing uncertain futures at Old Trafford, United are reportedly in the market for a new striker.

But McNeill will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow academy graduate Marcus Rashford, who made a seamless transition to first-team football.

The 18-year-old striker reportedly scored over 600 goals for Manchester City’s youth teams before joining the red side of Manchester in 2020. 

He’s carried on banging them in for United and has netted five goals in the FA Youth Cup in 2021-22, including two in the semi-final win over Wolves. 

Manchester United's Charlie McNeill during their match with Young Boys in Manchester, England, December 2021.

READ: Man Utd’s Charlie McNeill is already becoming the ultimate sh*thouse

Kobbie Mainoo

While Paul Pogba looks set to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, United may already have his long-term replacement.

Mainoo, who is the youngest player on this list, made his Under-18s debut at the age of 15 in October 2020 and has also featured for the Under-23s this season. 

The 16-year-old midfielder has already been compared to Pogba due to his technical skills, dribbling ability and impressive passing range.

If this outrageous nutmeg against Chelsea Under-18s is anything to go by, Mainoo definitely has a very bright future.

Isak Hansen-Aaroen

After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked by United, Hansen-Aaroen could ensure that there is still a Norweigan in and around Old Trafford for the foreseeable future. 

The midfielder made his first-team debut for boyhood club Trosmo at the age of 15 and had trials at Liverpool and Everton before deciding to join United’s academy in 2020.

He’s renowned for his natural flair and playmaking ability and has been compared to Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard, who operates in a similar creative midfield position.

The 17-year-old has been a regular for the Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup this season but has also started to feature for the Under-23s.

“He has those little bits of quality,” Under-23s manager Neil Wood said after Hansen-Aaroen registered an assist against Young Boys in the UEFA Youth League in December 2021.

“He has the ability to beat people one-v-one, he’ll take the ball in the game and dribble or a nice touch off his back foot which is really smooth and I think that really stands out.”

Zidane Iqbal

One of just two players on this list that have made a senior appearance for United, Iqbal came off the bench in a Champions League game against Young Boys in December 2021.

He became the first British South Asian to play for the club and has since made senior international debut for Iraq, playing in a World Cup qualifier against Iran.

The attacking midfielder, who grew up idolising Mesut Ozil, brings plenty of creativity to United’s Under-23s and also has an eye for a spectacular goal.

Manchester United's Zidane Iqbal

READ: Man Utd literally have their own Zidane – he even scores like Zizou

Shola Shoretire

Perhaps the hottest prospect on this list, Shoretire made his senior debut at 17 when he came off the bench against Newcastle United in February 2021.

He’s since made another three first-team appearances and is the youngest player to ever represent United in a European competition.

The left winger also won the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award in 2020-21 and is now one of the standout performers for United’s Under-23s, registering 12 direct goal contributions in 16 Premier League 2 games in 2021-22.

“I think since I started playing football, I’ve always played at least one year up,” Shoretire told United’s official website in 2021. “I think that has helped me a lot because you have to learn the game quicker as I’m not one of the big ones.

“So you have to be quite technical, I think, and I look up to Juan Mata. He’s not the tallest or the strongest but is probably one of the cleverest players I’ve seen play and played with. He is always two steps ahead. I admire him a lot.”


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