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Rise to Fame: Joe Hugill – from Sunderland to rising star at Manchester United

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?

Turning 18 in October 2021, Hugill will be featuring for the U23s during the 2021/22 season and could even play a role in the first team, in latter UEFA Champions League fixtures, the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup. He will also feature in the Papa John’s Trophy with Premier League teams entering squads under the age of 21 in the tournament. This will all aid his progress in the game and help him achieve what he wants to achieve. Hugill featured in the pre-season friendly against Derby County at Pride Park on Sunday, 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 will trued the teenager to find his feet playing against senior teams, which once again 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 and look to be in the plans of Solskjaer. 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.

What does Joe Hugill need to do in order to get noticed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

It seems obvious that Solskjaer has already noticed Hugill after his 16 goal haul during the 2020/21 season. To keep being noticed by the manager 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

From the Busby babes to Fergie’s fledglings, Manchester United fans cherish their youth products, but who’s next?

From the Busby Babes to the Class of 92, Manchester United has a proud history of developing academy players, before bringing them up to the first team. In the recent FA Cup win against Watford, United fielded six players from the academy in their starting eleven. Back in December of 2019, United made it 4,000 games in succession in which at least one youth graduate has represented the Reds’ matchday squad. That record is still on-going, so who will be next to follow the likes of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba into making their debuts?

Anthony Elanga

Anthony Elanga has made an excellent start to life in the under 23’s after a permanent move up from the under 18’s this season. Six goals and three assists in 15 games earned him a chance to train with the first team squad of Christmas and he also played in the only pre-season game against Aston Villa. That taste of the first team squad seems to have inspired his performances this season. He is very similar to Marcus Rashford, coming off the left flank with blistering pace and lots of skill. 

He won the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Youth Team Player of the Award last season and after putting Salford City to the sword, scoring in a 6-1 win, Gary Neville said that he was a “nightmare to play against”. With United recently signing Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri, both right midfielders, there is a big battle to try and make it into the United first team, but Elanga has shown that his performances warrant a chance. 

Shola Shoretire

Shola Shoretire has become a regular in the under 23’s this season, making the step up from the under 18’s and has scored two goals and laid on two assists in 12 games. These stats might not seem all that impressive, considering it is the under 23’s and he’s highly hyped, but when you factor in that he is just 16, yes 16, then the mind starts to wander. If he can play in the under 23’s at just 16, then how quickly can he make that jump up to the first-team? Mason Greenwood has offered the blueprint, albeit, Greenwood bypassed the under 23’s completely, such was his talent. Shoretire is a highly technical player capable of playing on either flank and is another winger that the club seems to be churning out at a rate of knots. 

Recently under 23 manager, Neil Wood, stated that the 16 year old is already becoming the best players in his squad. High praise for someone so young, talk that was also afforded to Greenwood before his move to the first team squad. He has already trained with the first team, a sign that he is someone that Ole Gunner Solskjaer has an eye on. If he can continue his good form for the rest of the season, we may be seeing Shoretire a lot in pre-season and beyond. 

Hannibal Mejbri

Hannibal Mejbri, or just Hannibal as he is known, caused a lot of excitement when he joined United back in 2019. Another player making the full-time leap to the under 23’s this season, Hannibal is a central midfielder, who likes to get forward and create. His stats this season are impressive. Three goals and six assists in 14 appearances, but there have been times when he has struggled playing against stronger, physical players. This is the big difference stepping up from the under 18’s, especially as a 17-year-old. 

Slightly worrying is that he has the tendency to show levels of petulance when thing don’t go his way. Sent off for a silly tackle against Southampton under 23’s, former United player Ben Thornley has warned the young Frenchman to watch his body language at points this season. 

His quality is not in doubt though. His assist in that win against Salford City was sensational and United fans on social media got very excited, as was his slick finish in the 5-2 win against Brighton under 23’s earlier this season. It showed his ability in being able to take the ball running into the box, a quality that every team likes to have from their midfielders. It wouldn’t be surprised to see Hannibal make his debut in a cup game over the next year.

Joe Hugill

Joe Hugill is a born goal scorer. Signing from Sunderland this summer, the striker already stands at 6ft 2 at just 17 years old. He scored two goals in his debut under 18’s match and was immediately moved up to the under 23’s. He’s scored four goals in nine appearances, despite only starting two of those. In between he’s made another three appearances for the under 18’s, scoring four goals and creating another.

2020 had seen a large number of top young players across Europe join United, and although Hugill was believed to have a lot of potential, he wasn’t expected to make the jump up to the under 23’s quite as quickly as he had. Injuries helped his cause, but he has taken the chances and if he continues at the same rate, we could see him in the first team before too long. 

Charlie McNeill

If Joe Hugill does make the jump, he will likely be competing with Charlie McNeill all the way. They effectively already are. McNeill was signed from their rivals Manchester City in 2020, after leaving the United academy in 2014, and has scored six goals in eight under 18 appearances. It is said that he has over 600 goals in youth football, and in 2018 he signed a six year deal with Adidas. For City’s under 15’s he scored 110 goals and 38 assists in 72 games. 

Those numbers are incredible and whilst it doesn’t mean it will transcend over to senior football, the signs are promising. Being a boyhood United fan will also increase the want for United fans to see him succeed. If he and Hugill both continue to develop, the United front line could be very tasty in the next five years. 

Alvaro Fernandez

Alvaro Fernandez is another 17-year-old that United recruited last summer. Signing him from Real Madrid on a free may end up being a steal in future years. He made his debut for the under 18’s scoring against Burnley, before settling in the under 23’s ever since. If you’ve had the pleasure to see him play, you will have seen a hugely technical player who despite enjoying the attacking side of the game, is more than happy defending. With Alex Telles signing this season to provide competition to Luke Shaw, Fernandez may be next to make the position his own in the next four or five years. 

When your idol is Marcelo, you know what you’re going to get with a player and United fans will be eager to see the 17-year-old in action for the first team before too long. 

Arnau Puigmal

In 2017, United beat Barcelona to the signing of Arnau Puigmal. At the time, he was seen as a one of the best Spanish players of his generation. Fast forward three years, and Puigmal is having his best season at United so far. Seven goals and two assists so in ten appearances for the under 23’s have led to high praise surrounding the teenager. The only caveat? His contract is expiring at the end of this season and Barcelona want him back

Puigmal is equally adept at playing anymore on the right flank as he is centre midfield and United will be very keen to hold onto him. They lost Angel Gomes in similar circumstances last summer and will want to avoid this situation happening again. Whether or not, Solskjaer can find a place for him in the team is another matter. With the financial situation at Barcelona worsening, the Spaniard may feel that he will find it easier to force his way into the Barcelona side then the United side. United fans will hope he doesn’t as he meshes technical quality with a physical presence, something that would suit him well in the Premier League. 

All seven of these players are highly thought of and will be determined to make it into the first team squad. Solskjaer has proven that he is more than happy to give youth players a chance. Tuanzebe has played more this season and the manager took a very youthful side to Astana, giving many first team debuts. Di’Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt from the start – and three more in the second half, substitutes D’Mani Mellor, Largie Ramazani and Ethan Galbraith. Teden Mengi made his debut as a substitute later on in that Europe League campaign and James Garner, impressing on loan at Watford this season has made several appearances for United and is highly thought of. 

Ethan Laird, Mengi and Garner are all players that could make the breakthrough into the first team squad in the next year or so. As previously mentioned, Garner has been impressing on loan and will be 20 when he returns to the club. Seeing Scott McTominay’s pathway into the first team will give him confidence as to making the side himself and a full season in senior football will be more than beneficial for him. 

Ethan Laird has also been earmarked for the first team. He too is tasting his first action in senior football after moving to MK Dons on loan. He made his debut against Burnley in the FA Cup, playing for an hour and earning plaudits from his new manager. United had been linked to Kieran Trippier, whilst Timothy Fosu-Mensah is on his way to Bayer Leverkusen. If Laird impresses on loan, then he may be the man to fight with Aaron Wan-Bissaka next season. 

Teden Mengi is highly rated by many at the club and joined the first team squad for training in the build up to the Carabao cup game against Manchester City. He may have only managed six minutes in his solitary game for United, but he has shown himself to be a leader and is the current under 23 captain. He also showed his will to win, criticising teammate Hannibal after the Frenchman posted a picture of himself and Chelsea youngster Pierre Ekwah on Instagram. The post came shortly after the 6-1 defeat to the Blues and Mengi was quick to highlight that the reason they lost was down to ‘too many friends and not enough enemies’. United fans will enjoy seeing a captain saying that, you’d imagine that would be Roy Keane’s opinion, and it bodes well for his future. 

Written by Huw Rawlings

Manchester United confirm new arrivals in academy; exciting future

Manchester United have confirmed some new additions into the academy ahead of the 2020/21 season. Back in May, the Old Trafford club were linked with 16-year-old Sunderland striker Joe Hugill with reports by the Daily Mail then suggesting a £250,000 deal between the clubs. Although the fee has not been confirmed, the teenager is now a United player, along with teammate Logan Pye, also 16. United have also brought in 16-year-old Czech goalkeeper Radek Vitek from Sigma Olomouc.

During the 2019/20 season, Hugill played for Sunderland at U18 and U23 level, with Transfermarkt stating he made seven appearances in total, scoring three goals. Pye, also playing for Sunderland, made nine appearances at U18 level, scoring no goals but making one assist. Vitek played for Sigma Olomouc U19, making 10 appearances, conceding 17 goals and keeping two clean sheets. Obviously, the trio will mainly be playing at U18 level and be added to the current squad at that level.

Current United player Shola Shoretire, 16 will be added to the U18 squad permanently after performing well during the current season, which was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Shoretire made a total of 20 appearances for the club this season, scoring three goals and three assists. He is also the youngest player to play in the UEFA Youth League, appearing in the competition last season at the age of 14. United could have a good prospect in the teenager.

Omari Forson, 15 will also remain at United after being linked to Arsenal, which will be important for United considering the talent of the player. During the 2019/20 season, he made 14 appearances, coming off the bench 11 times, scoring one goal and one assist. He only arrived at the club from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2019, so it was good that United ended up keeping the player instead of his returning to London a year later. He could well be one of the shining lights in the academy.

United have also confirmed that defensive duo Rhys Bennett, 16 and Oliver Kilner, 16 will take up places in the U18 squad ahead of the new season with Polish goalkeeper Daniel Polakowski, 16 also rising up to the squad which is coached by Neil Ryan. Bennett has been at United since U9 level with Polakowski being at the club since he was nine. Kilner is a local boy, coming from Stockport. It will certainly be an interesting season ahead with some U18 players likely to make the move to the U23 squad.

This will allow the players to progress through the ranks, forming a continual conveyor belt at the club, with some players eventually making it into the first team and other players earning careers for themselves away from United. This is what happens in youth football – not every player makes it at United but they can learn a lot from being part of the coaching and education scheme of the club. United have always been known for their academy and that looks likely to continue.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United agree £250,000 fee to sign talented 16-year-old striker this summer – reports

Manchester United have reportedly agreed on a £250,000 fee with Sunderland for 16-year-old striker Joe Hugill. The academy star is described as an ‘old fashioned striker’ and is seen as a player that could give United a different dimension, at least when playing for the U18s or the U23s next season as youth football this season has been cancelled.

United have apparently been seeking to get a deal done for the 16-year-old since March with Hugill having a decent goal scoring record for Sunderland’s U18s which prompted them to promote the player to U23 level earlier this season. Confirmation on this deal will have to wait until the coronavirus pandemic shows more signs of ending.

During lockdown, only essential travel is allowed and that does not include conducting a medical for new signings, so for this, United and Sunderland will have to wait until the lockdown is over and things such as this are allowed to happen. However, with suggestions that the lockdown could start to be relaxed soon, it might not be too far away.

It is suggested that Tottenham Hotspur were interested in Hugill earlier this year after scout Ian Broomfield went to watch him play. However, it would seem that United pressed on and have seemingly got to a stage whereby the deal could be completed as soon as possible, which is good news for United and the academy, and Hugill, of course.

The transfer will fit in well with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s approach at the club where he wants to sign young and talented players, preferably from the United Kingdom. United have not really switched from the approach to youth over the years and have had an academy player in the squad for every match since October 1937, over 4,000 matches now.

At U18 level this season, United have scored 49 goals playing in the U18 Premier League (North), the U18 Premier League Cup and the FA Youth Cup. If Hugill is added to this squad next season, he could help improve that for United, seeing them score many more goals with the attacking players able to demonstrate more quality.

At U23 level, United have scored 50 goals this season with two more being added due to own goals from opposition teams, giving United 52 goals in total. These have been scored in the Premier League 2 (Division 2), and the Leasing.com EFL Trophy. Hugill could add something at this level too, considering Sunderland promoted him this season.

Hugill is understood to have rejected terms on a new contract with Sunderland, which has enforced the situation for the club to sell the player. It is expected that he will sign his first professional contract with United when he turns 17, which is not until the 19 October 2020. By then, he could be representing United at either U18 or U23 level.

United have needed to find an out and out striker at U23 level for some time now, especially with the likes of Mason Greenwood missing out on playing regularly at that level given that he was promoted to the first team relatively early and seems to be excelling there now, scoring 12 goals and four assists in 36 first team appearances so far this season.

copyright: JW