The word ‘generational’, alongside ‘world-class’ and ‘literally’, has lost most of its meaning in recent years through over-use in the footballing world; Shea Lacey could become the exception.
Lacey, born as recently as April 2007, is blessed with a wand of a left foot and possesses such prowess from free-kicks that some over-excitable comparisons to Lionel Messi have been made.
The attacker likes to cut in from the right flank using his left foot and exhibit his twinkling feet which often leaves opposition defenders needing emergency oxygen before returning to the fray.
And Lacey combined every single facet of his game to score one of the best solo goals we’ve ever seen.
Playing in unseasonably cool conditions, even for England in April, Lacey was introduced as a substitute during United under-18’s match against Wolves with the scores level at 1-1.
After receiving a ball from full-back Jayden Kamason on the wing, the 15-year-old created a wonderous web which drew the Wolves defenders irresistibly into his orbit.
With the trap set, Lacey put on the afterburners to leave his opponents choking on dust and shame as he beat a path towards the penalty area.
After racing towards the byline, shaking off one last stubborn opponent with the ease of brushing the lint from his jacket, the United forward sat the Wolves goalkeeper down before imperiously sweeping the ball over him and into the goal.
Unable to stop an incredulous smile from creeping across his face, Lacey stood in wonder as his team-mates rushed to commemorate the sorcery they’d just seen.
When Lacey bestrides his generation in the manner of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, fans from across the world will flock to Carrington and stand in awe at the moment where it all began for the Englishman. We can’t blame them.
WHAT A GOAL ! 🔥
Shea Lacey 😱 pic.twitter.com/Mg45wvWCKq
— utdreport Academy (@utdreportAcad) April 25, 2023
Manchester United are famously renowned for giving young players opportunities in their first-team, having enjoyed a remarkable 85-year run of including an academy graduate in their matchday squad.
“The beauty of the 85-year run is it has been achieved organically,” Neil Cox, the head of United’s academy, said last October. “It hasn’t been manufactured or, indeed, something we were conscious of (the statistic was only ratified in recent seasons). It’s just the way things are done here.
“No doubt the Academy will make the headlines next week, but the Academy has never and will never develop players on its own. Developing players is the responsibility of everyone.
“The first-team staff, the board, the ground staff, the media team, the legal team, administrators, and many others. We are lucky to have staff to support us now as they did 85 years ago.
“While we are proud of our history, we are also aware of our duty to continue to uphold our reputation as being innovators and doing things differently in order to bring about success.”
This includes the likes of David Beckham, George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Ryan Giggs, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, players that have become household names during their illustrious careers.
And, on this evidence, you wouldn’t bet against Lacey’s name joining the list of gilded graduates in the future.
By Michael Lee