Manchester United and youth academy. This is a special relationship unlike any other in modern football. There are clubs whose academies are renowned. La Masia has thrown up names like Iniesta, Xavi, and more. Real Madrid’s academy has given players to pretty much every Spanish top-flight team.
However, the special connection that Manchester United and its academy have is unparalleled. After all, there is no other club in the world with the barely believable record of having a youth academy graduate in its matchday squad for more than 85 years.
Among many unbreakable records in modern football, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Even in Man United’s darkest years in the PL, a youth player or two has put his hand up and made the breakthrough.
It has been Alejandro Garnacho this season. He has followed the likes of Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, and many more.
His fearless attitude has been a breath of fresh air as he has lifted the Old Trafford crowd with his attacking play.
With that theme, here are 3 Manchester United youngsters who could have a “Garnacho season” next year.
United fans this season have become increasingly familiar with one name pretty much always on the bench, but rarely making appearances.
Still just 17, Kobbie Mainoo has seen first-team action for 97 minutes across all competitions. However, he has been a regular member of the U23s squad and acquitted himself brilliantly.
Mainoo is the perfect all-action midfielder. He is comfortable playing as the lone defensive midfielder in a trio in a 4-3-3, as one of the two sitting midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 and is as comfortable as one of the two advanced midfielders in a 4-3-3. He has even had some stints playing as the No 10. However, his best position, like Paul Pogba, is when he dribbles past players in the deep and then plays line-breaking progressive passes.
The upcoming pre-season would be the best chance for Mainoo to catch Erik ten Hag’s eye. The manager already rates him highly, as evidenced by his continued inclusion in the matchday squad.
If he can make his mark in pre-season, then the stage could be set for him to explode next season and become a regular in the first-team, like Garnacho.