Three Man United youth players that should play before the end of the season

Manchester United’s 2021/22 campaign is coming to a disappointing end. Following Saturday’s defeat away to Everton, United’s top-four hopes have been reduced even more. They currently sit six points behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur, and whilst it is still mathematically possible to finish in a Champions League position, it is a big job to rise to fourth.

Under Ralf Rangnick this season, United fans have witnessed the breakthrough of new Sweden international Anthony Elanga. The Red Devils’ interim boss gave Elanga an opportunity earlier in the season, and he is now becoming a regular first-team player.

With some other exciting talents currently in the United academy, here is a look at three players who could get a chance in the Premier League as the season draws to a close.

Hannibal Mejbri

In August 2019, Manchester United secured the signing of Hannibal Mejbri from Ligue 1 side Monaco. The only player on this list to have already made his first-team debut, United fans are very excited to see Hannibal in action more regularly. His solitary appearance for the Red Devils came off the bench away to Wolves last season, when he replaced Juan Mata in the 82nd minute.

Hannibal, who is already a full international for Tunisia, has been involved in some first-team squads under Ralf Rangnick already since the German took over. Most recently, he was on the bench for last Saturday’s defeat to Everton. However, he is yet to make an appearance under Rangnick, something which United fans would love to see.

The Tunisian is a versatile player and can play as an eight, a 10 or out wide on the left. One of Hannibal’s best traits is his dribbling. The 19-year-old isn’t afraid to drive at opposition defenders, whether he is picking the ball up from a deeper position or in and around the penalty area. Hannibal is a player who frustrates the opposition and is regularly fouled as a result.

His passing is also one of his best assets. Hannibal regularly plays line-breaking passes for his teammates to run onto. This is something that could see success in the first-team, considering players like Marcus Rashford and Elanga often use their pace to run in behind.

The remainder of the season provides a good opportunity to give Hannibal a first-team chance. Out of all the players on this list, he is the most experienced, and some more Premier League minutes, even from the bench, could prove invaluable in his development. Hannibal is one player who United fans are desperate to see in first-team action this season.

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Charlie McNeill

Over the last few seasons, 18-year-old Charlie McNeill has become one of the most prolific academy strikers in the country. Manchester United signed McNeill from Manchester City in October 2020 and he has scored an exceptional number of goals so far for the under-18s and under-23s.

McNeill’s first season for United saw him score 24 goals in just 21 under-18 league games. This season, the striker has broken into Neil Wood’s under-23s side, scoring four times and getting one assist in his first full season in the Premier League 2.

He has also played a big part in United’s FA Youth Cup campaign this season. McNeill’s performances have helped the Red Devils reach the final, which will be played at Old Trafford against Nottingham Forest at the end of April. McNeill has contributed five goals and two assists on United’s road to the final.

A clinical finisher, McNeill can find the back of the net in a variety of ways. For United, he has scored goals where he has chipped the goalkeeper, slotted home one-on-one chances and tucked away a finish from close range inside the box. Both of his goals against Wolves in the Youth Cup semi-final were a good example of how deadly he can be in different situations.

However, McNeill’s game is about more than just his goals. His off-the-ball movement is very sharp. He isn’t afraid to make runs in behind or drop deeper to receive the ball himself or create space for a teammate.  

It would be great to see McNeill get a chance in the first-team this season, even if only from the bench. Although people believe United need to sign another striker this summer, giving McNeill a chance to prove himself in the Premier League could help set in motion a rise to the first-team over the next few seasons. He could be a player we see regularly for the Red Devils in the coming years.

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Alejandro Garnacho

One of the most exciting players in the Manchester United academy currently is winger Alejandro Garnacho. The 17-year-old joined United from Atletico Madrid in October 2020, around a similar time to McNeill. During his time at United, Garnacho risen through the youth ranks to become a key member of the under-23s squad.

Garnacho has had an exceptional season. In the Youth Cup so far, the winger has scored five goals and assisted three in just five games and has developed a lethal partnership with McNeill. In his most recent game, also at Old Trafford for the under-23 side, Garnacho scored the only goal to give United a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

Garnacho is a direct player, who uses his pace to his advantage, making runs in behind. A skilful winger, he will look to beat a defender and constantly get into a position where he can find a killer pass or take a shot on. Garnacho is an effective crosser of the ball, often finding McNeill or another teammate in the penalty area.

The winger is a lethal finisher and has seen success cutting inside on his right foot. He isn’t a stranger to a spectacular goal either. Garnacho scored an exceptional volley against Scunthorpe and a superb goal against Everton, where he carried the ball from inside United’s half all the way into the Toffees’ penalty area, before dummying a shot and calmly slotting home. Both goals came in the Youth Cup at Old Trafford.

At just 17 years old, Garnacho was also called up to the Argentina senior squad for the international break last month. He did not make an appearance for the senior team but did play a youth team game against the USA. Regardless, the experience of training with Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina squad will massively help Garnacho’s development. Not many players can say they have trained with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi before their 18th birthday.

With the end of the season approaching, it certainly seems like a good time to give such an impressive talent a run out in the first-team. Garnacho is the type of player who could have an impact, especially considering his form, and he will gain some important experience from the opportunity.

Some Exciting Academy Prospects

Aside from Hannibal, McNeill and Garnacho, Manchester United have lots of other exceptional talents in the academy. Ralf Rangnick gave debuts to Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage this season, and Shola Shoretire also made his Champions League debut in December.

It will be interesting to see if the likes of Shoretire and Alvaro Fernandez will be given any opportunities at the end of the season too. Fernandez is yet to make his first-team debut but is a big talent at left-back.

If Rangnick does decide to give some of these young players an opportunity to represent the Red Devils in the league this season, it will certainly be an intriguing prospect for United supporters. Hopefully, they can contribute to a positive end to the season.

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