Monday 15 October 2018

One year on for Manchester United’s history-making teenager

Angel Gomes was the first player born in 2000 to play Premier League football.

Manchester United’s Angel Gomes
Manchester United’s Angel Gomes

By Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport

One year on from becoming the Premier League’s first post-Millennium man, Angel Gomes is still waiting to for his next taste of the action.

It was May 21, 2017 and Manchester United were 88 minutes into their season-ending clash with Crystal Palace, when Gomes became a history maker.

Not only was the 16-year-old United’s youngest player since the great Duncan Edwards in 1953, he also took the honour of becoming the top flight’s first representative born after the year 2000.

And while he remains an exciting prospect slated for big things at Old Trafford, he has yet to earn a second experience of Premier League football.

Red Devils fans on social media were calling for his inclusion in what amounted to a dead rubber against Watford this month but with an FA Cup final to prepare for, Jose Mourinho opted against another look at the next generation.

While the likes of Gomes, Scott McTominay, Axel Tuanzebe and Joel Pereira were given their head 12 months ago, this time it was Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo who were drafted in.

That may have spelled frustration for the diminutive forward, and his successor as Jimmy Murphy young player of the year Tahith Chong, but he did manage one first-team outing this term.

That came in the fourth round of the FA Cup, a regulation 4-0 win over struggling League Two side Yeovil.

Huish Park may not be a theatre of dreams to many, but Gomes made one of his a reality by representing his club in the famous competition.

It was another late summons from the bench – and he may soon wish to avoid becoming an 88th-minute specialist – but there was still time for him to catch the eye.

Within moments of arriving on the pitch he collected the ball, breezed past experienced Glovers defender Tom James and hit the side-netting with a side-foot shot.

“Greedy Gomes…he wanted to score the goal!” said a smiling Mourinho post-match.

The Portuguese has managed London-born Gomes’ development carefully, inviting him for occasional training sessions with the first team this season, despite the teenager only progressing from the under-18s to the reserves in January.

“Last year, he had his debut and he’s been training with us now and again,” said Mourinho. “He had this feeling of being in the first team and immediately had confidence and quality. I’m happy for the kid.”

Little more than a month earlier Gomes was given an even more tangible reward than a cup cameo – his first professional contract.

After signing terms he told the club’s official website that United’s reputation as a breeding ground of local talent was important to him.

“This club is renowned for giving homegrown players opportunities to progress into the first team and that was a major factor in me signing my first professional contract at this great club,” he said.

“I am still young but am looking forward to continuing my development with the help of the coaching staff and I will take every opportunity that comes my way.”

Those opportunities are sure to increase as he continues growing into his body, his talent and the expectations which follow him but there is no guarantee of a fast-track.

Academy head Nicky Butt said of Gomes in December: “He’s a bright lad and he knows he has got a long way to go to stamp his authority in the first team.

“Some people go straight in like Marcus [Rashford] and some people have three or four years in the reserves like Tom Cleverley.

“Some mature quicker than others – some are men at 16 and some at 23, so it’s difficult to map an outline of a pathway as it’s up to the boy and how he does on the stepping stones along the way.”

Press Association

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