It’s July 2004. Greece have just lifted the European Championship, Lola’s Theme by The Shapeshifters sits proudly at the top of the UK charts and Manchester United’s future creative lynchpin is born in Hammersmith.
Omari Forson isn’t a name on the tips of United tongues worldwide. Yet. But that could all be set to change after Erik ten Hag has given the teenager a first Premier League start for the Red Devils.
Last season’s hat-trick in an under-21 match against Everton should be enough to make Stretford End regulars decide on the terrace chant that will serenade his rise to greatness.
Hat-tricks don’t share many similarities with tapas, but variety can elevate both practices into the god-tier zone. Happily, those at Leigh Sports Village last week were treated to a smorgasbord of soccer excellence thanks to Forson.
United’s youngsters were already leading 1-0 when the 18-year-old cut inside, leaving his opponent contemplating self-banishment to Uzbekistan, before drilling his low shot past the despairing goalkeeper.
His second was spectacular; with Everton tentatively threatening a comeback, Forson seemed to stumble over a raking long pass, with the sighs of his team-mates already brewing at the inevitable dispossession.
They reckoned without Forson’s nimble footwork and unerring eye for goal. Five seconds later, the United midfielder had turned an Everton defender inside out like an old pair of jeans before lashing his shot into the top corner.
To unseasoned observers, the penalty that completed Forson’s hat-trick was the least eye-catching of the lot. And they may have a point.
But the unerring way Forson converted it – sending the keeper the wrong way like prime Ruud van Nistelrooy – hints at future greatness.
Composure is a requisite quality of any superstar and Forson demonstrated that Slush Puppie courses through his veins at crucial moments.
Omari Forson's hat-trick against Everton U21s 🎩🔥 pic.twitter.com/JdYsrKbj7D
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Darren Fletcher and deputy technical director Andy O’Boyle keep a keen eye on United’s youth sides, and both members of United’s staff would have stampeded to Erik Ten Hag’s office to recount Forson’s latest ridiculousness.
It goes without saying that he’s caught their eye and the aspiring young talent is definitely earning the chances Ten Hag has given him at first-team training.
Forson spent his early career in London with Tottenham and West Ham, so it was a coup that United snatched from under the noses of some of London’s big hitters in 2019.
And his early form for United’s U15s attracted strong attention from Arsenal, who were keen to bring him back to the capital. United’s pledge to promote Forson to the club’s U18s ensured he stayed in the land of chips of gravy.
Subsequent appearances in the FA Youth Cup, alongside close friend and promising prospect Kobbie Mainoo, have justified United’s leap of faith. He’s also scored for England’s U19s and it would be a surprise if Gareth Southgate wasn’t aware of his potential.
Forson’s mix of skill, power and pluck makes for an intoxicating cocktail of attributes that should ensure a long career at Old Trafford if there’s any justice in this world.
And, judging by the chastening he gave Everton’s defence last term, his rise to superstardom feels inevitable. This first senior start has been a long time coming.
By Michael Lee