If you haven’t heard every Manchester United fan talking about him already, you should soon know the name Angel Gomes. He’s currently at Man United’s youth academy and has been since he was six years-old. He’s proven himself every year and if he doesn’t get some first-team time soon, he should leave.
He’s broken a host of youth records, such as being the first academy player to score a hattrick for United since 2001, which he did in 2016. When he was 16, he won the Jimmy Murphy award for best academy player, after scoring 12 goals in 19 starts for the U19s. A few days later, he made his Premier League debut when he came on for Wayne Rooney in the 88th minute. In doing so he became the club’s youngest ever Premier League debutant. Despite what should have been a symbolic handing-of-the-torch, Gomes’s career has stalled.
The stats don’t lie, however. His U18 career saw him achieve 15 goals and seven assists in 26 games. Despite having just turned 19, he has so far got seven goals and five assists in 22 games for the U23 team. Playing at a higher age level, in arguably the most competitive academy league in the world, these aren’t figures to scoff at by any means.
What’s more, its the type of player he is – thriving in the number ten role, sitting just behind the attack. However, Nicky Butt has often used him a deeper role in his 4-2-3-1 formation, and both are areas that the first team currently find themselves struggling with. In the deeper role, Gomes picks up the ball and begins the attack, with quick passing and speed undoing the opposition.
His fantastic agility allows the neatest of turns in midfield, which in turn create a huge amount of space for him to run into, and for his teammates to utilise. His first touch passing makes him a difficult player to close down, a trait further intensified by his sharp turn of pace, often leaving defenders in his wake. The ability of a delicate and deft touch completes the player’s incredible dribbling ability.
As much as his pace and dribbling are to be admired, so too is the passing. Previously mentioned was the first touch pass, but he’s got much more up his sleeve. There’s the fantastic intelligence to be able to slide the ball neatly between defenders on a quick attack, encouraging teammates such as Tahith Chong and Dion McGhee to run in behind defence – a trait which could prove useful with the pace of James, Rashford, and Martial.
His passing in buildup is calm and collected, biding time until the opportunity presents itself. There’s no forcing of play or a dire need to attack. Gomes is happy to go back and forth, make room, quickly move the ball about and taunt the opposition to opening up. This may perhaps prove to be his most valuable asset. The only players currently in the United first-team capable of this are currently Paul Pogba and Juan Mata. The former, however, is shackled to a deep-lying midfield role while the latter is struggling for game-time amid concerns of his pace and work rate.
Manchester United are currently in a time of crisis and it could be argued have been for nearly six years. However, after Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s big words concerning transfers and rebuilding, a lot is to be expected. So far, it’s been a lacklustre season with seven points dropped in the last three games. Games which United should have comfortably one, but found themselves lacking the offensive capabilities.
The answer to this could very well be right under their noses, and he might be getting tired of missing out on the senior squad, particularly with Mason Greenwood, two years his junior, leapfrogging him into the first-team action.