You could be mistaken for thinking there was only one significant piece of transfer activity that happened at Old Trafford this summer. The signing of Robin Van Persie from Arsenal stole all the limelight and even poor Shinji Kagawa had little time to bask in the spotlight as United’s most high profile arrival this summer. It may have skipped your attention then that Sir Alex Ferguson brought in another new striker during the transfer window, 18-year-old Angelo Henriquez.
Henriquez’s arrival was a quiet affair, swamped by the never-ending optimism created by the Van Persie deal. In fact, he wasn’t even the most exciting youngster to sign for United this summer as Crewe’s Nick Powell took that title after joining for £5 million. However, all the signs point to Henriquez proving to be a quality addition as well, indeed United had to fend off interest from rivals City to secure his signature in the first place and they completed a £3.5 million move to bring him over from Universidad de Chile.
In Henriquez’s case, it’s a good example of how a scouting network abroad works wonders for a club. Aged just 15, the striker came over with fellow Chilean Pedro Salgado for a trial and impressed the United staff so much, they set up regular training sessions for the player to monitor his progress, before agreeing a pre-contract arrangement with his club that meant the Red Devils could sign Henriquez at any point before his 20th birthday. With the player showing such promising form in the Chilean division, Sir Alex Ferguson has chosen to activate that arrangement already and Henriquez has now linked up with his new teammates.
The player’s goal scoring record in Chile meant United had to act quickly to ward off interest from a number of other European rivals, including Manchester City. Henriquez broke into the first team at Universidad de Chile at the start of the 2012 season and posted an impressive record, notching 15 goals in 27 games. It’s not like the level of football he played at was of a poor standard either, indeed Universidad are one of the best teams in Chile and are competitive in the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League. That was enough to convince Fergie that Henriquez can cut the mustard in Europe already, so instead of leaving him to develop in his native Chile, he’s brought him over to continue his progression at Old Trafford.
Numerous people have questioned whether this is the right decision, indeed perhaps Henriquez would be better off returning to Universidad on loan at least for the time being. 18 is a young age to come and settle into a foreign country while trying to break into the first team of one of the best football teams on the planet. It’s a tough ask for the striker, but he’s shown that he’s more than capable already, especially with his performances in his native league.
Internationally, the striker had caught the eye a number of years ago with his progression through the Chilean age groups. He made his debut for the U23 side this year, scoring twice on debut and also impressed for the U20’s, bagging 14 goals in nine games for the Roja. He starred in the South American U17 Championships, scoring three times in four games despite Chile crashing out in the first round of the competition, but this form thrust him into the European limelight and Four Four Two named him one of the five best players in the U17 category that year.
There’s no doubt he’s a talented player, with excellent movement and a good finishing ability. Henriquez is also extremely versatile, equally comfortable with coming deep to pick up the ball or drifting wide and running at defenders. This means he has the all-round game to succeed in the Premier League and his knack of finding the back of the net will undoubtedly ensure comparisons to Javier Hernandez who took to the Premier League like a duck to water after his move over the Atlantic.
With the riches United now have in the striking department, it may be a while before we see Henriquez in action for the club and perhaps Sir Alex will realise he needs to ply his trade on loan back in South America before he can star for United. However, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on and who knows, perhaps in the future maybe people will remember this transfer window as the one where Manchester United signed Angelo Henriquez and not Robin Van Persie.