With new manager Erik ten Hag known for his penchant of blooding youth and providing them with first-team exposure, Manchester United are handing out long-term contracts to their most talented academy graduates. Talks are already underway for Alejandro Garnacho to extend his stay at Old Trafford and fans will also be delighted to know that local boy Zidane Iqbal has put pen to paper on a deal which will keep him at his boyhood club till 2025 at the very least.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce that Zidane Iqbal has signed a new long-term contract with the club. Iqbal has agreed a new deal that will keep him at United until at least June 2025, with the option to extend for a further year,” a club statement read.
The Mancunian created history last season by making his debut for the Red Devils against Young Boys in a Champions League group stage encounter at Old Trafford, thus becoming the first British South Asian to play for the English giants.
He went on to replace England international Jesse Lingard in his one-minute cameo appearance. Charlie Savage, son of former Wales international Robbie, was also among the debutants in that game. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick was the one to hand the talented youngsters their chance to shine.
Even though his debut appearance did not last long, it was a significant moment for a sizeable minority population that has for too long been shunned to the background.
Unbelievable feeling to make my professional debut at Old Trafford. I have grown up supporting this club and to represent Manchester United in the Champions League is an incredible honour. This would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends and coaches.❤️ pic.twitter.com/vExlwtKUCe
— zidane iqbal (@z10ane) December 9, 2021
According to the Manchester Evening News, the German was even ready to play Iqbal against Brentford in December after COVID-19 wreaked havoc with the first-team squad. The fixture was ultimately postponed.
The 19-year-old had joined the United academy at the age of nine. He signed his first professional contract in April last year.
Iqbal the trailblazer
The Whalley Range-born Academy graduate is a proud Mancunian whose mother is Iraqi and whose father is from Pakistan. The youngster chose to represent the country of his mother’s birth Iraq.
He has already represented the Iraq national team, playing in their World Cup qualifiers away in Lebanon and at home earlier this year.
Iqbal made 24 appearances for the United age group sides, netting four times and providing one assist. The talented youngster is a midfielder by trade but can also play on the left wing. He has been deployed both as an attacking midfielder as well as in a more withdrawn role during matches.
In a social media post, the Iraq international said, “Delighted to have extended my stay at this wonderful club. Praise be to God.”
Delighted to have extended my stay at this wonderful club❤️ Alhamdulillah🤲🏼 pic.twitter.com/44nXPjQTjW
— zidane iqbal (@z10ane) June 28, 2022
The Iraq international was part of the Ten Hag’s first practice session. As someone who loves to have possession of the ball, the midfielder will be looking to impress the Dutchman early on so that he gets the chance to fly out as part of United’s pre-season tour.
The 20-time league champions are already bereft of options in midfield with big name players like Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Lingard all departing the club at the expiration of their contracts. Frenkie de Jong is rumoured to be joining from Barcelona but the deal is yet to be done.
Iqbal could be the beneficiary of such a large-scale clearout and if he can impress sufficiently, he can be a part of the first-team squad and even get some minutes during United’s Europa League matches. Signing a long-term deal shows the club’s confidence in the player and now Iqbal has to deliver on that promise.