Joe Hugill signed for Manchester United from Sunderland in the summer of 2020 for a fee in the region of £300,000. Instantly Hugill was a hit for United, starting in the U18 Premier League against Blackburn Rovers, with United winning 2-1 and Hugill scoring both of the goals. At U18 level, he scored six goals and one assist in six appearances, playing in the league and the FA Youth Cup. Hugill was then tested at U23 level, where he made the mark, scoring 10 goals and two assists in 18 Premier League 2 appearances, also featuring in the Papa John’s Trophy in three of the four matches played.
The best performance of the season for Hugill came in 6-3 victory over Liverpool in the Premier League 2 with the 17-year-old scoring four goals, which showed how much skill he has as a player. Amad Diallo also scored twice in that match. In terms of ability, Hugill has it and as long as he stays grounded and keeps improving, the world will be his oyster. The player had been prevalent in front of goal for Sunderland during his time at the North East club and that is where United first saw him, making him a member of the clubs academy as soon as they were able to.
What lies ahead for Joe Hugill?
After turned 18 in October 2021, Hugill has largely been featuring for the U23s during the 2021/22 season and in the future, will be seeking a role in the first team. He has played in the Papa John’s Trophy with Premier League teams entering squads under the age of 21 in the tournament. This has helped aid his progress in the game and will guide him to achieve what he wants to achieve. Hugill featured in the pre-season friendly against Derby County at Pride Park in the summer, coming on for Mason Greenwood at the start of the second half, then being himself replaced by Hannibal Mejbri with 11 minutes left.
This shows that despite finding it hard to get into the game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer influence at the time helped the teenager to find his feet playing against senior teams, which will aid his development. He seems to be getting to grips with everything at United in only his first season where he scored a total of 16 goals and three assists in a total of 27 appearances at both U18 and U23 level. The 2021/22 season will see him playing a majority of matches at U23 level, which will test him and help him become the player that he wants to become. With some first team training added into the mix and some minutes on the pitch, he will be helped massively.
Will Joe Hugill make the Manchester United first team?
It is early days right now but Solskjaer will be working towards bringing youth through the academy into the first team so he will be hopeful that many of the talented players within the academy can do just that. However, there are no guarantees. Football has changed since the Class of 1992 came through the ranks with Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Phil Neville all found themselves in the first team. Sir Alex Ferguson took a massive risk at the time with four of the six and it paid off. Giggs made his debut in 1991 with the others following any years later.
There are many top talents in the academy at this time and not all of them will achieve the route to first team football with United but at this time, many of the players in the group look like they have accepted the challenge. Of late, Shola Shoretire, Anthony Elanga and Hannibal Mejbri have all made their debuts. During the clubs pre-season campaign ahead of the start of the new season, the likes of Hugill can take their chances in front of Solskjaer to show him what they can do and in turn, more development will be offered in a first team scenario, which would start with first team training. Now that Solskjaer has departed, it remains to be seen what role Ralf Rangnick will play with the talented youth players.
What does Joe Hugill need to do in order to get noticed by Ralf Rangnick?
Solskjaer already noticed Hugill after his 16 goal haul during the 2020/21 season. To be noticed by Rangnick he will need to keep performing. United will have spaces in the squad for strikers in the coming years and providing Hugill keeps developing and putting in the performances, he will have a great chance of succeeding in the first team. This may be a few years ahead though, unless he starts making the same waves that both Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have made coming through the academy – if that happens, there will be a chance for him in no time.
The best thing for Hugill to do though is keep his head. There have been many youth players in the past who has represented the United first team during pre-season, which seems to have gone to their heads, contributing in them failing to live up to the pressure at United, ending up playing for a lower league club – not that it is a bad thing, but no player will get through with an ego, even if it can be backed up. Hugill does not seem to be that type of player, so that is a good thing. This season will be crucial for him to follow up from las season, then the chances he is given from there will be in his control.
Written by John Walker