Soccer

Meet the five Man United kids promoted to the first team

A local lad in the mould of Rio Ferdinand, an ‘exciting’ Uruguayan who brings South American flair and a 16-YEAR-OLD still studying for his GCSEs… meet the five Man United kids now in the first-team picture

  • Manchester United have called up five youth prospects to their first-team group
  • Facundo Pellistri, Ethan Laird, Anthony Elanga and Will Fish all joined the squad
  • The youngest addition to training on Sunday was 16-year-old ace Shola Shoretire
  • Sportsmail has taken a closer look at the quintet accelerated by Solskjaer 

Manchester United have promoted five unknown teenagers into their first-team squad to face Wolves on Tuesday night – another sign that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is returning the club to its values of youth development first made successful by Sir Matt Busby and later continued by Sir Alex Ferguson.

United have produced so many great homegrown players in their history from Duncan Edwards to David Beckham and Paul Scholes. 

Earlier this month Scott McTominay scored twice in a 6-2 thrashing of Leeds and Marcus Rashford was on target last weekend against Leicester City. Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood have also come through the United academy.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has once again shown his commitment to youth at Manchester United


Scott McTominay (left) and Mason Greenwood (right) have both benefited under Solskjaer

So, who are the next generation taking their first baby steps towards trying to emulate The Busby Babes and Class of 92. 

Sportsmail looks at the quintet who have sampled the big time for the first time by training alongside Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani ahead of their match at Old Trafford.

ANTHONY ELANGA – Age 18

Position: Forward

An old-fashioned winger who uses pace and trickery to beat his full-back and deliver crosses. 

He lived in Sweden until the age of 11 and was still a schoolboy when he made his debut of the United under-18s. 

Now a regular in the under-23s where he wears the No 11 shirt once made famous by Ryan Giggs, he is extending the range of his game and has scored crackers with solo runs or shots from outside the box.

Anthony Elanga is a Sweden youth international and is seen as an old fashioned winger

Elanga is highly thought of in the annals of United and is seen as a future first team prospect

A sign of his potential was being voted United’s Jimmy Murphy youth-team Player of the Year last season. The club pay great respect to awards like that with the roll of honour including Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville, Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

Elanga, a Sweden youth international, helped United qualify for the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy, scoring against Salford and Accrington before they were knocked out in the last-32. He is regarded as a genuine future first-team prospect. 

‘There is a pathway here. We’ve got a manager in Ole trusting the youngsters,’ he says.

WILL FISH – Age 17

Position: Defender

Commanding centre back who has already shown leadership qualities by captaining United’s under-16s. He also played in all four of United’s EFL Trophy ties this season against first-team opposition from the lower leagues.

Showed impressive composure making his under-23 debut against Fulham at the age of 16 and United had no doubts giving him a first professional contract in March. 

Shares many of the qualities shown by a young Rio Ferdinand – he reads the game, times his tackles and has a good passing distribution – but is probably more of a goal threat as well. He marked his England under-17s debut against Germany last year by scoring in a 2-1 defeat.

One of his team-mates on that occasion was Jamal Musiala who has already made an impact at Bayern Munich. United will be particularly pleased with Fish’s progress as he is a Manchester lad, following in the footsteps of Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Rashford of local boys made good.

Will Fish has been likened to a young Rio Ferdinand such is the impression he has made

The difference is that Fish (left) is seen as more of a goal threat than the ex-United defender

ETHAN LAIRD – Age 19

Position: Defender

Thoroughly modern defender with pace and physicality who is tipped to provide competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back, he sampled the Europa League last season with appearances against Astana and AZ Alkmaar.

He first came to the fore forming an impressive full-back pairing with Brandon Williams for United under-23s and he doesn’t lack confidence, proclaiming about his first-team prospects: ‘I can hack this level of football.’

Laird has also been recognised at international level, besides appearing in the UEFA Youth League for United he has represented England at under-18s level with team-mate Mason Greenwood, both captaining and scoring for his country. 

United see him as a long-term asset. He first joined them aged nine and signed a new deal earlier this year, tying him to the club until 2023. 

‘It’s only step one and there are a lot more steps to come, including obviously getting to the final stage, which is the first team,’ he says.

Ethan Laird (right) has been in touch with the first team since the summer as he pushes on

FACUNDO PELLISTRI – Age 19

Position: Forward

The Uruguayan was scouted by United for a long time until he signed in a £7million deal from Penarol in October. The winger already has considerable experience in his home country, playing 37 times in their First Division, and has made three appearances for United in the EFL Trophy besides scoring three times in seven games for the under-23s.

Pellistri’s versatility will be beneficial for United in years to come with his ability to play anywhere along the front line. United signed him on contract until 2026 – a surefire sign of their confidence – and it’ll be interesting if their League Cup semi-final against Manchester City goes ahead, whether Pellistri will get the nod for his debut a few days later in the FA Cup against Watford.

One of Pellistri’s biggest assets is his close control in tight areas. ‘He’s exciting and shown some things that we don’t really have here,’ said an impressed Solskjaer after first putting Pellistri through is paces in training.

Facundo Pellistri (right) arrived for £7m last summer and he has already ‘excited’ in training

SHOLA SHORETIRE – Age 16

Position: Midfielder

The youngest of the five players called into the squad by Solskjaer, Shoretire – who is eligible to play for either England or Nigeria – signed a United scholarship contract in March after being chased by some of Europe’s leading clubs and is set to turn professional next year. He had already previously made his mark at Old Trafford, becoming their youngest-ever debutant in the under-19s UEFA Youth League at 14 years, 314 days against Valencia.

Shoretire has already become a mainstay for the United under-18s, sometimes studying for his GCSEs by day and then playing games in the evening. Born in Newcastle, Shoretire started at United aged 10 and has become probably the most talked-about player at the academy.

Has scored for United in their run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals. Despite his lack of size, a wonderful ability to manipulate the ball has created a buzz at Old Trafford. ‘He is a really exciting player,’ says United under-18s coach Neil Ryan. ‘He’s evolving and developing and can play a number of different positions.’

Shola Shoretire is developing way beyond his years and has been rewarded with a call-up

United manage to sign him to scholarship terms in March as he was pursued by rival top teams




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