Emerging through the ranks at Manchester United is both a blessing and a curse for young talents who have to deal with immense pressure, but when you’re as slick as Isak Hansen-Aaroen is, that pressure is no worry.
Erik ten Hag has not been shy about picking his favourites since taking charge at United and his reputation for not rotating a team has become well known, but credit where it’s due, if he thinks you’re good enough, he believes you’re old enough.
That’s exactly why Hansen-Aaroen is undoubtedly next up for the Red Devils – there’s only so much longer his mesmerising footwork can be left to bubble away in the youth ranks.
Debuting for Norwegian side Tromso at the age of 15 – yes, really – Hansen-Aaroen very quickly earned himself the ‘wonderkid’ nickname and was snapped up by United by 16 years old in 2020.
Since ascending through the various youth levels in Manchester, the teenager first caught the eye with his unique style – literally.
For all the body feints, tricks and flicks, there was a corresponding number of tattoos or a strand of bleached blonde hair with a highlight of another colour to go with.
If that’s the first you’ve heard of the teenager, you’d be mistaken for thinking a David Beckham tribute act had walked through the door.
His expressive style, though, compliments his endlessly creative approach from midfield and – crucially – his fearlessness in possession of the ball. Again, Beckham-esque.
When you’ve got a silky playmaker running at you covered in tattoos, fancy hair flowing in the wind with the football seemingly superglued to his boots, you can make as many insults and jibes as you like – he’s getting past you and he’s making you look a fool in doing so.
Hansen-Aaroen not only has bags of talent, but has the aura to carry it into the senior game. The Norway under-21 is the kind of baller that has you cursing at the television set, or better yet on a Wednesday night has you contemplating an early retirement from five-a-side.
You might be able to read what he’s about to do, but that won’t stop him from skinning you alive and leaving you in a heap, wondering if you put your boots on the wrong feet.
But fancy tattoos and flowing locks will only get you so far at a club as big as United.
Ten Hag needs soldiers he can rely on when the going gets extremely tough, and Hansen-Aaroen has accepted the role call – so much that he’s gone full skinhead, just like Beckham did.
Debuting his new badboy look on international duty, it was a number of poor Italian defenders who felt his wrath as he *almost* scored the most aesthetically pleasing goal of 2023.
Isak Hansen-Aarøen got close to scoring for Norway yesterday.
I’ve said it once & I'll say it again, his close control & dribbling is some of the best I’ve seen. His ability to glide through teams with ease is special — Truly mastered the art of gliding. pic.twitter.com/NA8WRpfpRG
— LØNE (@loneutd) October 17, 2023
The boy means business.
A tame shot at the end of a truly electrifying sequence spares the blushes of a young Italian defence, who’d been swept up in a tidal wave of dribbling excellence.
Regardless of the level, if you can have a bunch of Italian defenders desperately scrambling, petrified to put in a tackle in fear of being made to look a fool, you’ve got something special.
Considering how fragile United’s midfield is currently as Ten Hag tries his best to implement a technical base throughout his side, giving Hansen-Aaroen the keys in the form of a first-team breakthrough in 2023-24 feels like a no-brainer.
There are few players – let alone midfielders – in the senior squad that can so effortlessly glide past players and part defensive lines as Moses did the Red Sea, yet here the 19-year-old is, head freshly skinned, doing it for fun.
United’s season is long and there is plenty of expectation for Ten Hag’s side to deliver, but with games coming at them thick and fast, there’s every excuse to give Hansen-Aaroen to break through and introduce his Beckham tribute act – both hairstyles and jaw-dropping footwork – to the world stage.
By Mitch Wilks