Seven academy players Erik ten Hag could debut at Manchester United!

Ogunneye, Amass, Mantato, Lacey, Ibragimov, Biancheri & Wheatley could be the future for United!

Sir Matt Busby had a very positive message for the youth players at Manchester United which simply read; if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. This is something that can still be seen on the wall in the Manchester United dressing rooms and will be a message still recognised by youth players.

Busby was a legendary manager of United and created what could have been one of the best young teams that English football had ever seen. His Busby Babes were a great footballing team but the Munich Air Disaster curtailed their brilliant brand of football which took United years to recover from.

Sir Alex Ferguson many years later adopted the same policy with Fergie’s Fledglings bringing through members of the Class of ’92 with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville. Apparently you cannot win anything with kids – but Fergie did!

Since Ferguson retired, United have seen managers come and go with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and now Erik ten Hag. Ten Hag came to United in the summer of 2022 from Ajax, where he had too focussed on youth at the Dutch club.

Ajax have been known as one of the best youth academies in European football creating stars such as  Johan CruijffFrank RijkaardDennis BergkampFrank de Boer, Ronald de BoerEdgar Davids, Clarence SeedorfPatrick KluivertRafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder.

Ten Hag has been managing United for two years now and despite the media attention given to sacking another manager, he seems to be continuing his management of the club, not matter what the future could bring. Here are some youth players he could utilise to make United’s future bright…

Habeeb Ogunneye, 18, right-back

Habeeb Ogunneye made his debut in United’s U18s during the 2021/22 season making 10 appearances, scoring no goal but getting two assists. In the 2023/23 season, Ogunneye made just nine appearances, scoring no goals and getting one assist.

During the current season (2023/24) Ogunneye has stepped up a level playing in the U21s as well as the U18s but has also been picked as part of the match day squad for the first team but it yet to make his debut. So far he’s made 20 appearances, scoring no goals or assists.

Ogunneye has made the first team bench four times this season against Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool and Bournemouth. He could even be part of the squad against Coventry City this weekend in the Emirates FA Cup with United’s injuries in the defence still gripping them.

His progress at United could be good for both him and the club in the not too distant future. He has done enough to impress Erik ten Hag and it is only a matter of time before he makes his debut for the club. United have just two fit experienced fullbacks and will require strength in depth.

Harry Amass, 17, left-back

Harry Amass signed for United from Watford in the summer and is already on the cusp of making his debut for the club. He emerged in the Watford U18s in the 2022/23 season making two appearances, scoring no goals or assists. He has also played for England at schoolboy level.

Since arriving at United in the summer, Amass has played a varied level of football playing in the U18 Premier League, Premier League 2, UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup. He’s made 20 appearances, scoring one goal and three assists so far this season.

At first team level, Amass, 17, has been on the bench in the matches against Liverpool and Bournemouth and is awaiting his debut for the club. United have two fit experienced fullbacks at this stage of the season which is why both Ogunneye and Amass are involved right now.

It does not seem long before Amass will make his debut for United and there is a lot of interest in him doing so in the not too distant future. With injuries not getting better this season, there could be so many youth players that could make debuts before the end of the season, which is a good thing.

Bendito Mantato, 16, right wing

Bendito Mantato emerged in the United U18 squad in the 2022/23 season, making four appearances, scoring no goals or assists. He has also been playing schoolboy level football for England during that season, which suggests that he has something about him that could be good for the future.

Mantato has made eight appearances for United this season at youth level, scoring five goals and two assists as the U18s became the U18 Premier League North champions with their 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the week. Mantato seem to have the talent to succeed.

The 16-year-old has not yet seen involvement with the senior squad yet, but next season or beyond, he could catch the eye of the manager and see himself training with the first team regularly, which will give him a taste of what he needs to do in order to make hid debut for the club.

United have a lot of attacking talent at the club this season, which could limit Mantato from making a first team debut this season with the likes of Shea Lacey, Amir Ibragimov and even Ethan Wheatley all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order to make debuts in the not too distant future.

Shea Lacey, 17, right wing

Shea Lacey emerged in the U18 during the 2022/23 season where he made 13 appearances for the club, scoring three goals and two assists in the U18 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup. Lacey has always been highly rated at the club and seems to have a bright future ahead gf him.

During the current season, Lacey has made just 10 appearances for the club, scoring two goals and four assists but did suffer an injury which kept him out of action for a long period of time. United’s U18s win the U18 Premier League North this week, which will motivate the 17-year-old.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the level of ability of Lacey and the fact he could be a player that could see himself fast-tracked into the first team, who he has already been training with in the past few weeks, with a view that he could make his debut this season.

Ten Hag will have his eye on players that he could bring in for the remainder of the season with a view of seeing how they do and how they adapt at senior level, which could either see them make the first team next season, or in the not too distant future. Lacey is a bright talent, no doubt.

Amir Ibragimov, 16, left wing

Amir Ibragimov made his impact in the U18 side during the 2022/23 season at United where he made five appearances at that level, scoring no goals but getting an assist. Seen as a talented player and very much one for the future, the 16-year-old’s talent really is impressive.

Despite being born in the Dagestan Republic, Ibragimov currently plays for England schoolboys playing at the U15 level last season. He is predominately a left winger but can also play right wing and central midfield. He has the world at his feet and could rise through the ranks.

This season (2023/24), Ibragimov has made four appearances, scoring no goals but getting one assist. The U18 squad have recently won the U18 Premier League North after beating Wolves 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon. United will play the winners of the South league later this season.

Ibragimov is a name that has lots of hype on social media but it seems to be a while before he will reach the heights of the first team as he has not yet played U21 football, which could be the next challenge for him – either this season or next. The future is bright for him though.

Gabriele Biancheri, 17, centre-forward

Gabriele Biancheri cane to United from Cardiff City and has been doing well at the Old Trafford club during the early stages of his career. He signed his first professional contract in September 2023. He made four appearances in the 2022/23 season, scoring one goal and no assists.

Biancheri has excelled at United this season making 20 appearances so far, scoring 10 goals and three assists, playing ay U18 and U21 level, helping United win the U18 Premier League North this week which a brace against Wolves, which helped United clinch the title with games remaining.

The 17-year-old could well be fast-tracked into the first team this season or next if he continues to do what he does on the pitch. He’s a talented striker and has proved that he can score goals. He has not played many matches at U21 level – one so far, so may be tasked to adapt there first.

But with United struggling for attacking palters, which just Rasmus Hojlund as the only striker for the club this season, something could change Ten Hag’s mind to promote Biancheri to the first team with United’s Premier League campaign falling short and the FA Cup being the only trophy to win.

Ethan Wheatley, 18, centre-forward

Ethan Wheatley came through the academy into the U18 squad during the 2021/22 season, making one appearance, scoring no goals or assists. During the 2022/23 season, Wheatley made 17 appearances scoring five goals and no assists. He started to make his mark at the club.

During the current season (2023/24), Wheatley has made 25 appearances, scoring 11 goals and four assists, playing in the U18 Premier League, Premier League 2, UEFA Youth League, Papa John’s Trophy and the FA Youth Cup. His rise through the academy has been a positive one.

Wheatley, 18, has been involved in training sessions with the first team over the past few months with Ten Hag seemingly earmarking him for his debut this season, or next if he is still the manager of the club. He made the bench for United against Bournemouth at the weekend, which is good.

The 18-year-old could follow the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Willy Kambwala, Daniel Gore and Omari Forson to make their debuts from the academy under Ten Hag at United. It is clear that there is a lot of talent in United’s academy and hopefully they can make it to the first team and progress.

The future for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United

There is a lot of speculation surrounding Ten Hag at United with the media lining up to get another manager sacked from the club. The toxic nature of that and fan channels like The United Stand have created such a negative atmosphere where logic and common sense seem to disappear.

Granted, Ten Hag’s second season at United has not really brought anything to the club following the Carabao Cup victory in the 2022/23 season. But United have struggled to kick on and rise to challenge for the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

United have suffered many injuries this season, which has helped cause problems but tactics and systems have not produced the exciting football wanted by the supporters. But United are in much better hands now with Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority stake in the club.

Having the liked of Omar Berrada as the clubs CEO and bringing in the likes of Dan Ashworth from Newcastle United to be the clubs football director and Jason Wilcox as the technical director would put United in footballing hands rather than the hands of bankers.

I would like to see Ten Hag given next season to make his mark at the club. No manager out there is able to make major changes at a club in two years, especially with United being full of high earners with low production. In a proper footballing structure, Ten Hag could thrive like he did at Ajax.

Written by Paul

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.