Manchester United’s Under 18 coach Kieran McKenna has challenged Angel Gomes to thrive and step up under pressure this season.
The 17-year-old, having claimed the ‘Jimmy Murphy Youth Player of the Year’ award just a few days before, was handed his senior debut by Jose Mourinho against Crystal Palace back in May.
And he has been an effervescent force for the Under 18s, starring in a 4-3 comeback win over Arsenal and netting crucial goals against FC Basel and CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Youth League.
Speaking to MUTV, McKenna has urged the youngster to enjoy the pressure of being the side’s creative nucleus during the campaign.
“It’s something we’ve been speaking to him about, his penalty taking,” he said. “Because he missed a couple last season.”
“We just encourage him to say: ‘When you’re the no.10 and a creative player in the team, the onus is always going to be on you to take penalties’. We encourage him to thrive on that and want him to step up.
“We want him to take the pressure and, thankfully he did so in the UEFA Youth League game earlier that week and then, at the weekend, twice against Arsenal. So he is able to deal with and enjoy that pressure.”
Gomes is not just learning how to improve as a footballer; the youth coaches have pin-pointed him as a leader of attacking movements, as somebody capable of unlocking games at crucial moments.
This is the right mentality to instil into a player who is already standing out at the age of 17. His technical ability on the ball and eye for goal eclipses that of players way beyond his years at the club, and the likes of McKenna need to nurture that.
With the right work rate and, of course, a desire to dominate games, Gomes could find himself angling for a spot in the first team squad over the next few years.