Manchester United’s Under-21s finished their season with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last night to lose their Under-21 title but there are plenty of positives to take from the campaign, especially the rise of James Wilson.
The 19-year-old’s club season ended with 30 appearances (one as a substitute) in which he scored 24 goals and bagged assists. Those goals came across the Under-18s, 19s, 21s and senior level.
To go from the Under-18s to the Under-21s is real progress. To go from the Under-21s to the senior side is magical. To score a brace on your senior debut is the stuff dreams are made of. To do all that in the same year is unheralded.
For those who have watched Wilson’s progression this season, it was no surprise to see him do so well in the first team because all season long, when the pressure has been on his shoulders, he has delivered.
The Under-19s UEFA Youth League is a prime example. He was our top scorer in the competition and although we did go out at the group stage, Wilson set such a high standard with his performances in those games against the best that Europe had to offer in that age group.
Comparisons to Adnan Januzaj are obviously going to be made and they mirror each other in certain respects but Wilson has taken a leap above the Belgian in that he announced himself onto the scene with the senior team in his breakthrough campaign, rather than the following year.
It means Wilson will go into the pre-season with his debut under his belt and his first goal already in the bag. That will give him some real confidence to go on and build on that progress next season which, injury permitting, could see him become a regular in the first team squad.
Of course, Wilson hasn’t been the only youngster to have been thrown into the limelight recently.
Tom Lawrence also made his debut against Hull and although Wilson earned the plaudits, Phil Neville believes Lawrence was United’s best player of the pitch in the first half.
Last night, he was again on top form and his superbly taken goal was the highlight of the game. It was composure and calmness personified.
Like Wilson, Lawrence will take real confidence into the pre-season having already made his debut and with any footballer, confidence is everything.
Could Wilson and Lawrence be the brightest prospects this year?