Angel Gomes – a promising Man united academy graduate left the club on June 30, 2020 & joined Lille but eventually went out on loan to Boavista in search of first team action. The 19-year-old came through the academy at Old Trafford and became the youngest player since Duncan Edwards to feature for the first team in May 2017, aged 16. Gomes’ appearances were limited, making only 10 since his debut three years ago.
Now, you are wondering, is the above picture of Angel Gomes from the future or who’s the man below nurturing plants. What’s he got to do with Angel Gomes leaving Man United’s academy.
I would like to share a small story with you of a farmer called Nasar (in the pic above) & then round off to Angel Gomes later.
The story is of Nasar, who is a resident of Arukutti, a town in the Alappuzha district of Kerala, India. He is an engineer who also works as a farmer. He loves farming & spends 30 minutes daily. He has created an elaborate garden with about 25+ varieties of vegetables using easy techniques.
Since he’s grown up in a family of farmers he was always interested in harvesting & even though he became an engineer, his interest in farming never died down. He proudly claims to have never purchased a vegetable for the past 2 decades. “The satisfaction of eating your own harvest is unbelievable and once you experience that you’ll never be able to say No to farming, & I believe that every home should have at least a mini kitchen garden” says Nasar. (Source – Better India)
Likewise, every football club too has its own mini kitchen garden – an academy, which develops players right from the age of 8 to 17 years till they sign professionally. The joy the club derives when an academy graduate goes on to make it in the first team is immense. Everyone from the club staff, the coaches & the fans love it. The player is treated as one of their own since he’s grown in the club, understands the culture, the expectations, may have seen glory days before & may well be a part of it too in the future.
Man United has also seen a fair amount of footballers emerge from their academy – The Class of 1992 – Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham & more recently Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Scott Mctominay & Brandon Williams.
The beauty of the club, as a fan, is that even though we are so strong commercially & can buy ready-made stars; we still believe in giving opportunities to home grown talent, which is very romantic to say the least. Its in the blood at Man united to give opportunities to talent irrespective of their age! When Sir Matts Busby built that iconic team – Busby Babes & then Sir Alex Ferguson won it all with the Class of 92 at its core & now with Ole; the heart, the core of the team was from the academy, home grown.
Manchester United, now also proudly holds an unique record as of December 2019, of 4000 matches, wherein at least one youth graduate is represented in the Reds’ first-team or match day squad.
“You can’t win anything with kids“, a quote, by ex-Liverpool player, Alan Hansen, has stuck with us, ever since he taunted Sir Alex when he promoted youth from the academy (the class of ’92). The academy has always been the core of our progress through the years & we have always proudly cherished the players who have risen to the occasion.
While we are at it, let’s take a look at the top 3 emerging talents from the academy.
- Hannibal Mejbri –
Mejbri, was signed by Man United in the summer of 2019 for 10 million Euros plus add-ons from AS Monaco. Under 18’s manager Neil Wood got the best out of the 17 year old & he eventually earned a call up to the under 23’s where he has been involved in 0.5 goals per game. Mejbri’s former Paris FC coach has described him as a modern midfielder who combines excellent ball recovery, fast transitioning and the ability to finish. Manchester United fans will hope to see the prodigy make his senior debut some time next season.
2. Teden Mengi –
Mengi is the latest graduate coming off the production mill at Carrington. Ole has showered glowing praise on Mengi, describing him as a leader & a proper center back. He’s quick, good on the ball & is a decent player. From the same age group as Mason Greenwood, Ole definitely believes in him.
3. Ethan Laird –
Laird is a modern day full back who plays in the RB position for the youth team. He’s been around the first team squad recently & is seen as a potential cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He’s everything you look for in a modern full back, pace, accuracy at crosses & defensively sound. He has also scored 2 goals & notched up 8 assists for the under 18’s in the 2018-19 season, while this season he’s managed 3 assists in 10 games for the under23’s.
While the club is still rebuilding post Sir Alex’s retirement, Ole has more often than not placed his faith in the academy, notably winning with a much younger squad against PSG in the Champions League. With Ole at the wheel, we definitely can see some of these younger players getting a chance with the first team & making us proud.
However, as Nasar says, not all the vegetables grown can by consumed, therefore sometimes; they need to be sold off too, to make sense financially. While Angel Gomes was not sold, he left after his contract expired. He definitely was one such vegetable (in this analogy), who has chosen to go, for a chance to earn more first team minutes with another club. But he wasn’t the first nor will he be the last, as the production line at Carrington will continue to produce diamonds out of the coal mine.