Manchester United U18s coach Kieran McKenna throws down challenge to Angel Gomes

by Leo Nieboer

Manchester United’s Under 18s coach Kieran McKenna has challenged Angel Gomes to enmesh himself further in the Under 23 set-up after making his senior debut last month.

The 16-year-old became the youngest ever player to win the Jimmy Murphy Youth Team Player of the Year award following a superb campaign under the supervision of interim coach Nicky Butt.

He then went on establish himself as the first player born in the 21st century to make a Premier League appearance, replacing Wayne Rooney during the latter stages of Man United’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on the final day of the season.

And McKenna, speaking to the club’s official website, noted that Gomes, alongside others, stood a chance of breaking through the ranks next season.

“I think we’ve got quite a few second-year players who have managed to get a contract for next year and progress into the Under-23s and that’s a big part of the process,” he said.

“We want to pass on as many boys as we can to that level as we can and pass them on in the best position possible.

“So we have a big group of second-years moving up but we have first-years like Alex Fojticek in goal, George Tanner, Lee O’Connor, Angel Gomes, Aidan Barlow, Tahith Chong and Nishan Burkart.

“So it’s a strong list of players who are eligible again next year and, whether they play for us again, when the expectations will be even higher, or they’ll look to progress into the Under-23s, which is the goal for all of them, I’m sure it’ll be interesting for everyone to see how they progress.”

Gomes announced himself to the footballing world last month, but he will know that this is the beginning: the teenager can either keep working towards dominating at youth level and pressuring for a place in the senior side, or simply end up as a question on future pub quizzes.

His natural brilliance is unquestionable: there were players considerably older than him last season unable to lay a glove on his mazy, effervescent style. Combine that with an element of tenacity and greater physical presence, something achieved through hard work, and we could have a special player on our hands.

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