Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is only a few months into his tenure at Old Trafford, although the Dutchman is already seemingly buying into the ethos of the club, having shown a particular willingness to promote the Red Devils’ youth talent thus far.
While partially due to necessity as a result of recent injury absences, the former Ajax coach has regularly included the club’s promising assets in his matchday squads, with 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo notably earning a place on the bench for Sunday’s draw with Newcastle United.
Striker Charlie McNeill was able to secure his first-team debut during the Europa League defeat to Real Sociedad at home last month, while Iran international Zidane Iqbal has also been included on the bench this season, after catching the eye while on the club’s pre-season tour – memorably producing a solid cameo against rivals Liverpool in which he brilliantly turned away from Brazil international, Fabinho.
The 19-year-old was handed his senior bow by interim boss Ralf Rangnick last term in the Champions League dead rubber against BSC Young Boys back in December, although is still waiting to add to that tally under Ten Hag in the current campaign.
While there is undoubted excitement surrounding the teenager – with potential comparisons to be made to United target Frenkie de Jong – the playmaker is not the only academy asset who is deserving of first-team involvement, with 18-year-old Shola Shoretire also pushing for a more prominent role.
Like Iqbal, the “wonderful talent” – as described by Manchester Evening News journalist Dan Brown – has already flirted with the first team in recent seasons with five senior appearances to his name thus far, although the dynamic forward is still waiting to be handed a chance so far this term.
The £3.6m-rated ace was handed his debut by former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer back in February 2021 as a late substitute in a win against Newcastle United, before becoming the youngest player in the club’s history to feature in European competition in a goalless draw with Sociedad just a few days later.
The Newcastle-born starlet – who was also involved as a substitute on the final day of last season against Crystal Palace – is no stranger to breaking records, having also been the youngest ever player to feature in the UEFA Youth League at the age of just 14 back in 2018.
The England youth international boasts a stunning record of 20 goals and 16 assists in just 53 games for the club’s U21 side, with that tally having been bolstered by a brilliant brace during a dramatic 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Premier League 2 level at the weekend.
That clash saw the diminutive ace net twice in stoppage time as the Red Devils miraculously came from behind to snatch a point, with such individual brilliance likely to have caught the attention of Ten Hag and co.
There had been plans to send the youngster out on loan in the recent window, although those were swiftly shelved with the United boss keen to keep Shoretire at the Theatre of Dreams for a little while longer, with the sparkling talent having been a regular fixture in first-team training in recent months.
The next step will now be to force his way into the senior side moving forward, with the club potentially set to save themselves millions on further attacking additions if the creative diamond can begin to shine.