Manchester United’s latest signing Angelo Henriquez is someone that most fans will not be familiar with.
The 18-year-old striker previously came over to Old Trafford for a trial at the tender age of 14 and was scouted ever since and his rapid progression into the senior squad last season forced Sir Alex to act quickly this summer to bring him in from Chilean outfit Universidad de Chile.
I sat down with Rupert Fryer, an expert on South American football, who has seen Angelo Henriquez’s progression as a player over recent years and has kindly agreed to answer a few questions on the Chilean striker to give us a real insight into our most recent acquisition.
Firstly, can you introduce yourself to the readers.
My name is Rupert Fryer and I have been writing about South American football for an English-speaking audience for three years now. I’ve had my work published in The Guardian, The Observer, Fox Soccer, Sport 360, The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Football Ramble and Goal.com amongst many others. I’m a regular guest on talkSPORT and have appeared on numerous podcasts including the Guardian’s Football Weekly. I’ve also discussed the game on television for the likes of Sports TV Tonight, Univison, and TNU. You can follow Rupert on Twitter here.
Angelo Henriquez has made a swift breakthrough into the first team last season for Universidad de Chile. What accounts for his rapid progression?
In a word, turnover. Universidad de Chile, or ‘La U’, were the best team in all of South America in 2011, winning both stages of the Chilean domestic league and lifting the Copa Sudamericana (the continent’s Europa League equivalent) – the first continental title in the club’s history.
Success in South America, however, is inherently followed by an exodus, and so La U quickly lost a number of their star performers this time last year including strikers Eduardo Vargas and Gustavo Canales. Henriquez was already thought of as something of a prodigy when, in a practice match, he sufficiently impressed coach Jorge Sampaoli enough to be thrown into the first team. He went on to average just over a goal every other game in his first full season at senior level, helping the club to another league title and all the way to a Copa Libertadores semi-final.
What are the main characteristics of his game? What are his greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Despite standing just below 6ft, he is surprisingly strong in the air and has displayed a calmness in front of goal reminiscent of a striker well beyond his teenage years.
He has been prolific in youth international football, and repeatedly proved successful when asked to step up a level – he notched four goals against the finest the continent has to offer during La U’s Libertadores campaign. He is athletic, has a good turn of pace, and is lightening-quick over a yard or two in the limited space of the penalty area.
Most impressive, however, has been his movement and overall reading of the game. Sampaoli is a self-confessed Marcelo Bielsa disciple and La U’s Bielsan style is extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. For a player of just 17, he handled the transition into his coach’s gruelling and methodical approach to the game with a remarkable maturity and intelligence.
At only 18, do you think he is ready to play in the first team at Manchester United?
I would have preferred to see him remain in Chile for another year, and would perhaps suggest it would have been more beneficial for all involved had he done so – a sentiment that was shared quite emphatically by his previous coach.
The transition from Chilean club football to the Premier League is about as big as they come in modern football and so I understand why Sir Alex Ferguson wanted him to begin that process of adaptation as soon as possible.
Henriquez learned an awful lot in what was an extremely contemporary La U style and I was very much looking forward to seeing how he faired when having to take on a more senior role in the team in the aftermath of another mass migration at La U.
Hopefully, he can impress enough in a few cameo roles to see some first team action in the near future, but he has a fair few talented marksmen in front of him in the pecking order.
If you could compare him to any striker, who would you compare him to and why?
Javier Hernandez is perhaps the best comparison I could make and the Mexican international will likely be tasked with helping Henriquez settle in Manchester. Despite being perhaps more competent on the ball, more inclined to dribbled at opposing defenders, and capable of helping out from a wide position, Henriquez, like Chicharito, likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender and is all about finding the net.