Manchester United get a glimpse of bright future despite Leicester City defeat

Man Utd handed some of their youngsters valuable experience in the 2-1 Premier League defeat to Leicester City. Manchester United might have...

Man Utd handed some of their youngsters valuable experience in the 2-1 Premier League defeat to Leicester City.


Manchester United might have fielded a front three comprised entirely of teenagers against Leicester City, but that trio did have 107 appearances for the club to their name.

For the greenhorns Amad, 18, and Anthony Elanga, 19, perhaps there was comfort from lining up either side of Mason Greenwood, who might only be 19 but accounted for 102 of those games and in footballing terms is beginning to look like a seasoned veteran.

After Greenwood’s goal against Aston Villa on Sunday Luke Shaw had said it was time to stop talking about the academy graduate as a “talent” and to acknowledge that he’s already the real deal. To paraphrase Shaw, Greenwood has the world at his feet.

It’s with the ball at his feet that he spreads fear into Premier League defences. What had been a barren season has turned into an electric campaign and with eight goals in his last 11 games he is in the form of his life right now. Despite his tender years he led United’s attack - combined age 56 - superbly against the Foxes.

There hadn’t been this many teenagers on the Old Trafford pitch since a week last Sunday, but if those vehement protests against the Glazers’ ownership of United cast doubt about the immediate direction of this club, then the twinkle toes of Amad, Elanga and Greenwood would have made the hearts of United followers everywhere soar. On the pitch this is a club is in safe hands.

United’s much-changed team had taken time to settle into the game but their first attack of any note resulted in a goal. Amad’s persistence down the right helped to create it, but it belonged to Greenwood’s class and composure, showing quick feet to glide beyond Caglar Soyuncu and a calm head to tease a finish past Kasper Schmeichel. It was the first time two teenagers had combined for a Premier League goal in 15 years.

Given the relative lack of strength and physical stature to United’s front three, they were always going to have to be patient for their involvement in the game.

Amad’s dazzling feet near the touchline that earned United a throw were appreciated by the home bench, while Amad and Elanga showed tenacity to work back and pick the pocket of Youri Tielemans on separate occasions.

It was a night of cameos rather than consistency for Amad and Elanga. The former got carried away with trying to dribble out of his own penalty area and needed Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe to bail him out of trouble.

But the best showreel of their talent came early in the second half. Amad ran confidently infield from a position deep inside his half, moving past one challenge before finding Elanga, who span away from Marc Albrighton and immediately found Greenwood. The striker’s return ball wasn’t quite heavy enough to find Elanga’s run into the penalty area.

There was no surprise that all three gradually made way in the second half. While this kind of evening has become astonishingly routine for the prodigious Greenwood, it’s new territory for Amad and Elanga. They showed enough to suggest it won’t be their last involvement at this level.

They certainly have the right manager in charge to encourage their talents. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now handed debuts to 14 academy graduates in his time at United, with Elanga the latest. The winger looked like he could benefit from a loan move next season, but Greenwood is already a regular part of the first-team squad and Amad, the youngest of the trio, could join him next season.

United committed a potential £37million to sign the 18-year-old from Atalanta and while he is slight in build he is gigantic in potential. The way he tried to run with the ball against the Foxes suggested he believes he’s ready for this level.

This might go down as the night United finally let the title slip away, but they were hamstrung by circumstance given this week’s fixture list and the chances of winning the league had already evaporated. In the trio of teens leading United’s attack, however, there was a glimpse of a brighter future.

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