Over the years, Manchester United has earned a reputation of bringing through quality youngsters and turning them into world beaters. David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs et al but the next generation of academy superstars are only just making a name for themselves.
With the likes of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans all pushing for first team places and all representing their country at the highest level, here are my five youth stars from the U18s and U21s who have the potential to become United’s next superstars.
Born 31 December 1996 in the small Belgian town of Duffel, Andreas Pereira has gone on to make quite a name for himself in United’s U18s.
Signed from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, the creative midfielder has been an integral part of Paul McGuinness’ team since joining in 2012. Possessing a great turn of speed and a superb eye for a through ball, Pereira signed professional terms at the club on his 17th birthday.
Highly rated by many of the coaches at Manchester United, Pereira is set to follow the latest generation of Belgian superstars to ply there trade in the Premier League with the likes of fellow academy product Adnan Januzaj plus new signing Marouane Fellaini, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke just to name a few.
Warrington born Lingard has hit new heights in the past couple months after outstanding performances in Manchester United’s pre-season tour.
After having a torrid loan spell at Leicester City last season, Lingard came back to help lead the U21s to Premier League glory.
Standing at just 5″9, Jesse isn’t the biggest of players but what he lacks in height and power he makes up for in speed and agility. Sometimes used as a winger and even as a central creative midfielder, Lingard has risen through the academy ranks at club.
His stamina and willingness to win the ball is second to none but it is when he is in the final third that you really find out just how good Lingard is.
He has the ability to make space for himself to have a shot on goal or has the footwork and trickery to baffle the opposition in order to leave himself one on one with the keeper.
Despite having a tremendous pre-season, it is looking likely that Lingard will go out on loan potentially until the end of the season. Whether he stays or goes, Lingard will no doubt be a name that you haven’t heard the last of.
A domineering centre back. Like Lingard, Keane has successfully made his way through the academy ranks at United.
Twin brother to centre forward Will, who sustained a season ending knee injury back in June 2012, many believe Keane will represent United at the highest level.
Along with Lingard, Keane was loaned out to Leicester City last season but unlike Lingard, his spell at the club was extremely successful. Keane struck up a sensational partnership with Foxes centre back Wes Morgan and the pair helped guide them to the play-offs which they were unfortunately knocked out of. He was even on the shortlist for Player of the Year at Leicester.
Since then, Keane has gone on to represent England U21s and made a name for himself all over the country. not just in Manchester.
A cool, calm and collected centre back who prefers to play out with the ball, he very much fits in with the United style of play. Whether he will be the man to challenge the likes of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling once Rio and Nemanja have retired, only time will tell but he has the attitude and ability to step into their footsteps without a moment’s hesitation.
For those that don’t know who Wilson is, you soon will.
United scouted Wilson at the age of seven and since then he’s just got better and better. After scoring on his U18s debut at the age of just 15, the Biddulph born utility player has gone on to make a name for himself across the country.
Likened to a young Ryan Giggs, Wilson has represented England’s schoolboys at every level and scored on his U19s debut last week just 12 minutes into the game.
I label him as a utility player, whereas many call him as a striker. This is down to the fact that when he plays as a winger, he poses the same threat and the same attacking intent as he does as a striker. He is almost a carbon copy of a young Giggs in every respect.
He possesses a ferocious left foot, unbelievable speed and agility that give him the ability to control a game. His eye for a through ball is superb and there is no doubt in my mind that if this young lad keeps developing physically and mentally how he has done over the past 18 months, he will be a United first team regular before his 21st birthday.
If you have never seen anything of Wilson, get to an U18s game or have a watch on MUTV because his talent and potential is easy to see from the second you start watching him.
If you’ve read any of my articles before, you’ll probably be able to tell that I am a huge admirer of this young Belgian.
Born in Brussels to Albanian parents, Januzaj was signed from Anderlecht in 2011. Since then he has impressed not just the coaches at the club but the fans too after representing United’s U18s and U21s.
Possessing almost every trait in the book which an attacking player should have, Januzaj’s set pieces and versatility have helped him to stand out above any other player in his age group. His sweet left foot strikes fear into any goalkeeper once hit.
Such was his progress over the past year where he was named Reserves Player of the Year, the 18-year-old was picked to represent United’s senior side on their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.
Some superb performances on tour signalled the start of his senior career at the club and once back on home soil, Januzaj came on to make his competitive debut against Wigan in the Community Shield.
As I said before, what makes him stand out from the rest is his versatility. He can be used on the wing, behind the striker or up front on his own as he was last season for United’s U21s but the big factor in Adnan being so hotly talked about is the standard that he plays at in each position.
Play him in any attacking role and he’ll play just as good as he would in any other. He doesn’t seem to have any major weakness no matter what attacking position you play him in.
He has the speed and power to be a winger, the creativeness and awareness to be a playmaker and the finishing and composure to be a world-class striker. There is nothing this lad can’t do.
There have been rumours of a loan deal going about for Januzaj but after he was included in United’s U19s Champions League squad, the rumours have died down and he is expected to stay at the club.
If he doesn’t sustain any major injuries, there is no reason why Januzaj will not be playing European football on a regular basis within the next two years. Big expectations you might say but from what we’ve seen from Januzaj already, the world is his oyster.