MANCHESTER United’s youngsters have profited from the club’s Europa League campaign by getting valuable minutes and experience on the pitch.
And we could see exciting forward Anthony Elanga handed his opportunity next, after he was seen getting on a plane to Granada for the quarter-final tie.
The 18-year-old Swedish youth star is the latest talent off the United conveyor belt that could be set for his debut in the competition.
His dad Joseph was a professional footballer, who earned 17 caps for Cameroon and was called up to the 1998 World Cup squad.
Last season, Anthony was handed the prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, previously won by Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
Elanga was rewarded for his rapid progress with a new long-term deal at Old Trafford.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Anthony’s father Joseph could say he taught him everything he knew.
But the elder Elanga, now 41, wasn’t a forward like his son. He was a defender, who made a career for himself in Europe – in countries including Greece, Sweden and Denmark, before retiring in 2012.
His best years were with Malmo from 2000-2005, who he won the Swedish championship with in 2004. He would join the club for one season again in 2010 and win a second league title.
Joseph was a member of the Cameroon 1998 World Cup squad, but didn’t play a game.
During his career, however, he did manage to gain 17 caps for his country.
A THREAT UPFRONT
United’s youth sides are blessed with promising forwards, with the likes of Shola Shoretire, Charlie McNeill and Dillon Hoogewerf all showing they have a bright future in the game.
Like them, Elanga has the ability to play out wide or though the middle as a No9.
Predominantly right-footed, he uses his pace and skill to beat his man, often cutting in before unleashing a shot on goal.
His solo runs are reminiscent of a young Ryan Giggs, who could take three or four players out of a game in one swashbuckling gallop.
Elanga has been with the Red Devils since the U12s, joining the academy from Sunday League side Hattersley FC.
In 2019-20, after a prolific season with the U18 side with who he scored seven times in nine games, he was the recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award
This season, he graduated to the U23s, where he has six goals and two assists in 12 Premier League 2 games. But his season was recently disrupted by a broken collarbone.
HOPEFUL FOR THE FUTURE
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer giving youth a chance, Elanga – who scored two goals in five matches for Sweden’s U17s – has already excited the Norwegian boss in training.
“He’s got an X factor, some attributes, it’s not like a gift, but he’s got the acceleration, pace, speed, that’s a given for wingers and he’s got qualities I like,” Solskjaer explained.
“He’s a goalscoring winger, he’s confident, he likes to beat men, right foot, left foot, he’s got a great attitude.”
Elanga is equally as positive for his future, and knows what he has to do to impress his boss.
Back in November he told PA, “You look at the likes of Mason and Rashy, there is a pathway there.
“It just shows you that if you’re willing to put the work into it and continue to work hard day in, day out in training there’s a pathway for you there.”
HEROES IN THE GAME
In an interview with The Athletic last year, Elanga revealed who he styles his game on.
“Thierry Henry was my idol and I tried to match my game with his,” he said.
“He was quick. He could play anywhere across the front three – striker, left wing, right wing – and that’s how I want to replicate my game.”
Manchester United legend Gary Neville caught a glimpse of Elanga in full flight, when he co-commentated on United Under-21s 6-0 win over Salford City in the EFL Trophy last year.
He said the youngster was a “nightmare to play against” and called his goal “Thierry Henry-esque.”
If he’s half the player Henry was, United have got themselves some talent here.