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Angel Gomes: The One That Got Away?

In June of 2020, Manchester United announced the release of academy player Angel Gomes, after failing to reach an agreement over a new contract for the young player, stating ‘Angel Gomes has not taken up the offer of a new contract and has therefore left the club’. The wording of this official statement makes it seem as though the club tried everything in their power to keep the midfielder Old Trafford. 

However, when Sky Sports reported on the release, they stated that ‘the numbers just didn’t add up for the 19 year old and his advisors’, hinting that the offer on the table for Gomes was an underwhelming one, perhaps in terms of promised game time or in terms of wage, either way, Gomes rejected the offer, and his long spell at the club came to an abrupt end. 

Gomes signed for French team Lille, signing a five year contract, before being loaned to Portuguese club Boavista, as reported by The Guardian. This loan spell in Liga Nos has proven to be vital as Angel Gomes gained something he had been lacking for him at United, game time in a tough league. 

At Boavista, Gomes played 2,674 minutes across all competitions, scoring six goals and assisting a further six in that time. For a first ever full season, these are very solid numbers. Manchester Evening News stated that the Portuguese club was the ‘perfect breeding ground for success’ for Gomes due to his already speaking the language and Portuguese heritage. 

In an interview halfway through his loan spell, with The Independent, Gomes stated that ‘it’s been quite refreshing’, showing that this move, although hard, was the right one for him. 

The instant success Gomes found in Portugal, does lead to questions about whether his footballing development could have carried on at United, had he been given the opportunities. However, the main position Gomes played on loan was central attacking midfielder, where he played 18 games in total, this is an issue as this is a particularly strong position for United. 

Bruno Fernandes plays in the attacking midfield role for United, and he was signed six months before Gomes was released, in that time Fernandes had already cemented himself as a starter for Manchester United, making himself un-droppable. 

This was further proven in the 2020/21 season when Jesse Lingard had to go on loan to West Ham to gain playing time in his favoured attacking midfield position. If a then 28-year-old had to be loaned to gain playing time, there was not much hope for 19-year-old Gomes to push Fernandes off the top spot. 

This further suggests that Gomes made the correct decision by leaving, but maybe also that it was not due to a lack of talent but purely poor timing, as Gomes was reaching the age of going into the first team just as United were actively strengthening his favoured position. 

We can see similar instances in other areas of the pitch at United, more recently with Axel Tuanzebe having to go on loan this season to Aston Villa in order to get guaranteed playing time after United strengthened in the centre back position this summer with the signing of Raphael Varane

However unlucky the timing may be, it does not deter from the fact that Gomes was a highly thought of prospect at the club, as was proven when he made his debut at 16, becoming the youngest player to make their debut for the club since Duncan Edwards, as reported by Sky Sports

If he goes on to be a success at Lille and fulfil his potential, then he will always be labelled as ‘The one who go away’by United fans, but for the time being, the decision for the club and player to part ways seems to have benefitted everyone, not least the player. Seeing Academy players thrive is still a point of huge pride for United fans, even if it is at a different club, and this will be no different in the case of Gomes. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

copyright: JW