Manchester United have cultivated an enviable reputation for producing a constant stream of talented youngsters in their academy, and striker Anthony Elanga is the latest prodigy to come off their conveyor belt.
The Sweden U21 international departed his homeland back in 2014 in order to chase his dream of becoming a Premier League footballer and burst onto the scene last term, scoring in the Red Devils final-day victory over Wolves on only his second appearance for the club.
Since then, he’s continued to take great strides towards becoming a permanent fixture in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team setup.
After finding the back of the net during a pre-season game over the summer, United’s Norwegian manager was quick to praise Elanga, hinting he could feature more prominently in the senior side throughout 2021/22.
Solskjaer told the club website: “The boy is electric, has energy and enthusiasm, he’s really enjoying himself. He’s done himself the world of good. We know he’s a good player, we know he’s a good lad.
“He works so hard, he’s always smiley, bright, asking what more he needs to do, he’s so hungry to improve and get better. He can play wide left, wide right, upfront, so anywhere along the front line. He’s going to be an asset.”
Elanga’s only minutes in the first-team so far this season have come as an emergency left-back in the 20-time English champions shock 1-0 defeat to West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, though.
However, he’s continued to impress at youth level. He underlined his burgeoning reputation with a match-winning performance for United’s U23s against bitter rivals Liverpool last time out, scoring one and laying on an assist as the academy side earned a 3-0 victory.
And Elanga’s rise to prominence could come at the ideal time for both the player and the club.
With Edinson Cavani’s contract set to expire at the end of the current campaign, Anthony Martial desperately struggling for form and Cristiano Ronaldo deep into the twilight zone of his career, a new forward is believed to be high up on the hierarchy’s wishlist.
The youngster has previously outlined an Arsenal legend as his biggest influence in an interview with The Athletic, saying: “Thierry Henry was my idol, and I tried to match my game with his.
“He was quick. He could play anywhere across the front three – striker, left-wing, right-wing – and that’s how I want to replicate my game.”
But United will be hoping their latest homegrown star can replicate one of their own; Ronaldo.
Just like the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Elanga started his career as a skilful, pacey, goalscoring left-winger, but has already made the leap to becoming a central striker on many occasions.
Of course, it will take some stunning performances to replicate the great Portuguese attacker but his dribbling, goals and creativity certainly show shades of their famous number 7.
Solskjaer and co. will be hoping their Scandinavian starlet carries on his meteoric rise in the weeks and months ahead, providing the Old Trafford outfit with yet another outstanding asset in the final third of the pitch.