Angel Gomes should look to past greats to fulfil his Manchester United dream
The talented youngster turned down an initial contract offer at Man Utd due to fears over playing time - but past examples show all may not be lost for Gomesby Simon Yaffe
It was three years ago that Angel Gomes became Manchester United’s youngest debutant since the great Duncan Edwards in 1953.
The Londoner was 16 when Reds manager Jose Mourinho brought him off the bench to replace Wayne Rooney in the final game of the 2016-2017 season, a dead rubber against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
Like many products of United’s legendary academy, much was expected of the young attacking midfielder.
Three years on, however, and Gomes, who is also eligible to represent Angola and Portugal, has failed to establish himself in the first-team picture at United.
He signed his first professional contract in December 2017, but was hardly used by Mourinho; a fact not too surprising given the Portuguese’s reluctance to use younger players on a regular basis.
Gomes must have been delighted, therefore, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho in the Old Trafford hot seat a week before Christmas 2018.
There was every reason to believe the Norwegian would focus on United’s youth, with forward Mason Greenwood becoming involved early in Solskjaer’s tenure, as has left-back Brandon Williams and, to a lesser extent, Tahith Chong.
A few months ago, Chong was said to be in talks with Inter Milan with regards to moving to Italy on a free transfer later this summer.
That rumour was put to bed, however, when the Dutch prospect signed a new deal which will keep him at United until 2022.
The same cannot be said for Gomes, who has started three Europa League games this season, but who will soon be out of contract.
The MEN revealed Gomes rejected an initial deal to stay at Old Trafford due to doubts about his playing prospects at the club.
Chelsea have been linked with him, a move which has been questioned by pundits, given the fact Blues boss Frank Lampard has been promoting players from their academy and Gomes’ arrival would potentially block the pathway for one of their youngsters.
Gomes, the only senior academy graduate at United who is yet to commit to the club, still has time on his side should he decide to remain on the Red side of Manchester.
A natural number 10, with pace and a range of passing in abundance, there is no doubting his quality.
But he has failed to usurp similar players in Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard, both of whom have been below par for a long time, while he surely looked on with consternation in January when United swooped to sign the perfect no.10 in Bruno Fernandes.
Gomes celebrates his 20th birthday at the end of August and would perhaps do well to look at others who succeeded at Old Trafford having patiently bided their time.
In fact, he only has to glance at team-mate Scott McTominay, who had to wait until he was 20 to make his first United start, in the aforementioned Crystal Palace game.
The Scottish central midfielder has gone on to establish himself as a key member of Solskjaer’s team.
Perhaps his most notable moment came in United’s last match before the season was shut down when he scored their second goal, shooting into an empty net from 40 yards as they recorded a 2-0 home win against Manchester City.
England midfielder Jesse Lingard was 22 when he was given his competitive debut by Louis van Gaal in the Dutch manager’s first game, a 2-1 home defeat by Swansea City in the opening match of the 2014-2015 campaign.
And, while not every supporter’s cup of tea, Lingard, who scored the winning goal in the 2016 FA Cup final, has made an impact at United, with van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer all selecting him on a regular basis.
Paul Scholes, arguably one of United’s greatest players, did not feature prominently in the first-team until he was 21, while superstar David Beckham was 20 when he was given an extended run by Sir Alex Ferguson.
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Then there is John O’Shea, who made his debut at 17, but had to wait until the 2002-2003 season, when he was 21, to make his mark.
The Irishman stayed at United until a 2011 move to Sunderland, but won every domestic trophy - as well as the Champions League – during his time at the club.
For every Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, who became integral first-team members while in their late teens, there is a Scholes, a Beckham and an O’Shea.
Gomes may look to take a leaf out of their book. After all, where better place for a young player to showcase their talent than at Manchester United?