With another year coming to an end, we take a look at five young players worth watching at Old Trafford in 2014.
While it may have been some time since Fergie’s Fledglings burst on to the scene, Manchester United continue to produce and develop a number of impressive young players. But 2014 could see some of the best in recent times staking a claim for a future in the United first-team or, in one player’s case, continuing his rapid rise to eventual Old Trafford legend.
Wilson is a striker whose trajectory is such that he could soon be knocking on the door of the United first-team. He made his under-18 debut when he was just 15, and scored for good measure. He also netted five times in a single match against Newcastle United. Now a regular for England under-19s, Wilson’s scoring rate is such that he is one to watch, at both youth and reserve level in the months ahead, and could be the most exciting striker to come through the ranks since Will Keane.
The 19-year-old Belgian has impressed in central midfield for United’s under-21s, and as a result he was rewarded with a first-team squad number prior to the League Cup match against Stoke City earlier this month. While Ekangamene did not make it onto the bench for that match, big things are expected of him. A holding midfielder of considerable talent, he could be exactly what David Moyes is looking for.
Watching Ben Pearson, it is impossible not to make comparisons to Paul Scholes. His low centre of gravity, his ability to shield the ball, his knack of finding that extra second even in the most clustered of midfields, and his ability to spray the ball around the pitch with almost pin-point precision – they all point to United having another midfield marvel on their hands. The winner of last season’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, Pearson has also captained England under-18s.
The Swiss right-back’s arrival at Old Trafford went unnoticed by many, coming as it did on transfer deadline-day and amidst the signing of Marouane Fellaini and almost-signing of Fabio Coentrao. But the former FC Zurich player has hit the ground running at Old Trafford. Playing at both under-18 and under-21 level, Janko’s dynamism on the right is impressive and points to a big future at United.
The Belgian may be a questionable inclusion on this list considering his 2013 was pretty outstanding in itself. But the 18-year-old is still settling in to the United first-team…so imagine how good he is going to be once he has a full season under his belt. Destined to be a number 10, Januzaj is staking a pretty good claim to play anywhere across the front line when required. While many young players suffer as a result of unrealistic comparisons, there is no hyperbole here when I say he is United’s most exciting young talent since Cristiano Ronaldo.
image: © joncandy