Although Manchester United is often linked with a move for every professional footballer that has ever existed, they always find a way to get a handful of academy talents in the squad.
It’s an impressive feat, as they’ve played a little under 4000 games with an academy player selected in the senior squad.
United’s academy has promoted a plethora of talent such as the Class of 92’, as well as current players like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and Jesse Lingard. Needless to say, the academy has been able to provide the first team with promising prospects with world class talent and solid rotational players.
With such a proven reputation for player development, next season United will surely be looking to offer more first-team playing time to some of their academy prospects, whether that’s with the Red Devils or on loan with another team.
Among those players are Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, James Garner, and Axel Tuanzebe, all of whom have proven to be substantially better than their youth competition. Barring any early summer loan agreements, these five should be in United’s pre-season squad, where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be able to see what roles they’ll have in the team throughout the season, if any.
At only 17 years old, Mason Greenwood has already proven to be a reliable scorer at the youth level. He scored 26 goals in 26 appearances last season, which allowed him to nab three first-team appearances.
Greenwood is fluid with the ball at his feet and he’s got the pace and skill to get past defenders and create chances. His finishing ability is also incredibly polished for his age, as his goal-scoring record suggests.
While he may not see a significant increase in his first-team minutes next season, his goal-scoring ability could earn him more opportunities. If he’s able to recreate his incredible form, Solskjaer will surely be looking to find spot minutes for Greenwood within the senior squad.
Considering his age, he may not be ready for a loan move quite yet, so keeping him in the youth academy and finding him sporadic minutes with the first team throughout the season might be best for his development. He likely won’t be a consistent fixture in the first-team, as United is looking to bring in players at his position, in addition to having Rashford, Anthony Martial, and potentially Romelu Lukaku.
Since arriving from Feyenoord in 2016, Tahith Chong has been one of the most exciting prospects coming out of United’s academy. This season, he scored eight goals and managed three assists, and overall had an impressive campaign.
His performances earned him four senior team call-ups, where he impressed quite a bit with his blistering pace. In addition to his quickness, Chong also has tremendous technical ability, allowing him to slither through defenders and apply consistent pressure on defenses. Plying his trade on the wing, Chong likes to cut inside and run at goal, making him a valuable player on the offensive end.
At 19 years old, Chong’s game is a little more mature than his counterparts, which is why he should be set to receive more first-team playing time next season. If Ole feels like he can find minutes on the wing for the young Dutchman, Chong may stick around and try to fight for a place in the squad. Otherwise, Chong will be better off going on loan to another Premier League team, where he’ll be able to play more consistent first-team minutes.
Angel Gomes is a creative midfielder that oozes star potential, and is widely seen as the crown jewel of United’s academy. On the field, he’s a commanding presence, creating chances and kick-starting the offense with a mix of skill and finesse in the midfield. Last season, he scored eight goals and provided five assists, which earned him two senior squad appearances.
In addition, he has shown solid leadership qualities, having captained United and England squads at the youth level. His mix of raw skill, along with his penchant for leadership, should allow him to break into the first team sooner than later.
At 18 years old, Gomes has already shown that he can outplay the youth competition, and a more difficult challenge would be good for his development. If the Red Devils don’t end up replacing Ander Herrera this summer, Gomes could be primed for a bigger role within the United squad.
While he shouldn’t be expected to be a full-time starter, he could find himself earning more consistent rotational minutes. Nonetheless, a loan move to another Premier League team should be highly considered for Gomes in order to get him consistent first-team reps, especially if Ole can’t find minutes for him in the squad.
James Garner is a talented defensive midfielder, in the mold of Michael Carrick. Known for dominating the midfield at the youth level, Garner is an exceptional tackler, as he’s unafraid to get stuck in at every opportunity.
Additionally, his awareness and passing instincts are excellent for his age, making quick decisions soon after winning possession of the ball. As the anchor of the midfield, he often keeps the team’s tempo intact, making sure to keep the ball moving and making intelligent passes.
The 18-year-old Englishman could still use more time developing within the youth academy, but could earn spot minutes throughout next season. If United strike out in the transfer window, and are still unable to get anything out of Nemanja Matić, Garner could prove to be solid insurance. Hence, a loan move away shouldn’t be a priority as of now, as Garner is likely better off trying to continue his development at United.
By far the most experienced player on this list, Tuanzebe is coming off a successful loan spell at Aston Villa. He started 25 games for Villa in the Championship, and was a pivotal piece in helping the team earn promotion at the end of the season. He did miss significant time due to injury, but the fact that he came back and continued playing consistent minutes is a testament to his resiliency.
Prior to his loan spell, Tuanzebe had played sporadic minutes for United, where he proved to be a solid young defender. He’s quick for his position, and he has the physical tools to succeed in the physically-taxing Premier League.
Similar to others on this list, his role with the team next season will hinge on United’s transfer activity. With United going all-in on finding a star center back to add alongside Victor Lindelöf, Tuanzebe may be poised to return to Aston Villa next season on loan.
The consistency of returning to a club he’s already been a part of, in addition to the valuable Premier League experience he’ll receive, could be beneficial for his development.
Overall, Manchester United’s academy prospects should continue to impress next season. Whether it’s with United or on loan elsewhere, Ole will ultimately have the last say on what’s best for those listed above. Either way, fans should keep a close eye on their development in the next couple years, as any or all of them could break into the first team and become solid contributors.