Taken fourth overall in the 2013 SuperDraft, Manneh would go on to establish himself as one of the league’s most exciting prospects during his rookie season, becoming the first teenager to score an MLS hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders.
Making six starts in 20 appearances, while netting six times, his promising performances saw him linked with Premier League giants Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in the months following, per the Daily Star, and created high hopes for his second season.
The Gambian attacker couldn’t live up to the expectations, however, as he would flash moments of brilliance but often struggle to deliver the crucial end product, while failing to graduate from designated super sub to regular starter.
Nevertheless, having just turned 20 in December, time remains on his side and the Whitecaps hotshot’s start to the 2015 campaign has instilled renewed hope that he could be set to take another huge step forward.
Scoring his first goal of the season in the weekend’s 2-0 home win over MLS Cup holders LA Galaxy to help fire Carl Robinson’s side to the top of the Western Conference, Manneh has now started four of the club’s opening five matches on the left flank, where he’s given opposition full-backs all kinds of problems with his pace and skill.
There’s a reason for his successful start too, as the promising speedster admits that he’s been watching videos of Chelsea counterpart Hazard in recent months in an attempt to pick up a few tips.
“I’ve had a lot of players over the years who look up to and have said I want to play like,” Manneh told ExtraTime. “I try to model my game after Messi but, of course, no one can do that – he’s from a different planet!
“But I’ve have been watching a lot of Eden Hazard and feel like, structurally, we’re the same. He has a low centre of gravity and plays left midfield too so I feel like I can model my game after him.”
Manneh’s connections to Chelsea in fact go back to before the club’s reported interest in his signature, having had a one-week training stint with them in 2010, as well as with Liverpool in 2012.
Arsenal scouts also watched him action while he was starring on the development circuit in Texas prior to entering MLS, although, given the new work permit regulations coming into place, it’s doubtful that he’d be able to secure a move to England in the near future.
However, the diminutive wide man might have the chance to earn some international caps for the US come 2016, when he would be eligible for citizenship and thus the national team – a prospect he’d be more than open to.
If I have the chance, I would definitely want to play for the US, I definitely want to represent them," he added. "I haven't decided if I want to play for the US or if I want to play for Gambia yet. It's a dream up there. But either choice would be great for me. I have family here, I have family in Gambia as well, so it would be great."