Manchester United have over the years produced exquisite talent, the likes of George Best, the class of 92 and in more recent years Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford. One player that caused ripples albeit within the Manchester United community was Angel Gomes, an attacking midfielder by trade who has been hailed as the best player of his generation by many people and has given the several United managers since Sir Alex Ferguson left, a vexing conundrum on how to integrate him into the first team.
Born in London and raised in Salford, Gomes has had a football rich background, his father Gil was an Angolan Portuguese-based striker who was part of the famed Benfica Academy but his career never materialized too much and spent his entire career in the lower leagues of Portugal and England. It seemed Gomes was always destined to be a Manchester United player with, Luis Nani being his cousin. Signed by United at 13 years old, Gomes has played above his age group at every level, making his Under-18 debut at the staggering age of 14 and in July 2015 he was named Most Valuable Player in the Manchester United Premier Cup even though his team came 12th.
He then followed that up with an even more impressive feat, winning the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year, an award presented to the best young player for the season. In winning the trophy, he became the youngest ever recipient of the award. In the process, he scored 12 goals in 19 games and had a handful of assists. Days later, he made his first-team debut against Crystal Palace at the tender age of 16 years and 263 days and becoming the youngest player to represent Manchester United since Duncan Edwards while also becoming the first player born in the 2000s to appear in the Premier League, and who better to replace on the pitch from the bench to make your senior debut other than the man the myth the legend Wayne Rooney himself, a moment so surreal, as if it had been written in the stars for Gomes all these years.
In terms of international experience, Gomes began his international career in August 2015 when he made 2 appearances for the England U-16 team, he then played a further 7 matches with the Under-16s and captained the team twice. He then played and captained for the Under-17s and scored 4 minutes into his debut in a match against Belgium. Gomes was due to take part in the Under-17 European Championship but couldn’t participate due to injury.
Gomes’ preferred position is as an attacking midfielder. His playing style has been compared to that of Ronaldinho due to his creativity, composure, and dribbling. In January 2015, Nani described Gomes as Manchester United’s next star.
Manchester United graduate Danny Webbed said: “Gomes is still very small, but he sees the game seconds before others. Angel is like Paul Scholes he can dictate a game with his intelligence.”
The Carrington Conveyor Belt Failure and Weakness Not Acted on.
His aerial play including his heading needed improvement, while some would say that the reason for this fault in his play would be because of his height. The argument doesn’t stack up when you see Lionel Messi, one of the shortest players around beat Rio Ferdinand, a giant defender to a header and score. Improvement of his heading was essential for there will be games in which his team was trailing and the old long ball tactic was used and he could quite possibly not be a focal point of the attack and the inability to head the ball well excluded him sometimes from the starting line-up against teams which go for the aerial route. Lack Of physicality has also affected Angel Gomes’s play and buildup on these same lines and context of the game.
His long-shot ability has been another area for improvement all these years. While Gomes’ style of play is all about quick passing and movement before getting the close finish, there have been games in which his style of play doesn’t work and he might just need to shoot. For him, it isn’t that he hasn’t had the technique and accuracy to shoot from range but rather the unwillingness to shoot from range, showing sometimes his lack of confidence and other cracks in his gameplay and football persona.
The first place to start when discussing just how and why Gomes left Manchester United is to make it clear that people at the club, including Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, wanted him to remain at Old Trafford. Ole publicly said that United presented a very ‘fair’ deal to Gomes.
United wanted Gomes to continue his development and fulfill the potential that saw him win the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year Award in 2017 and become the first player born in the 21st century to play for the club in the Premier League.
Guess that begs the question, then, why a career that started at United for Gomes as a five-year-old in 2006 came to an end? The answer probably has many strands to it.
There was a deal on the table from Manchester United for a long time and after signing up for other youngsters recently, it was hoped that Gomes would follow suit by putting pen to paper. But the numbers didn’t add up for the 19-year-old and his advisors.
We’re talking about a player who’s spent 14 years in the system at Carrington, who celebrates his 20th birthday on August 31, yet hasn’t made a Premier League start with just five appearances from the bench.
United themselves are aware that perhaps it doesn’t send out the right message that someone spoken of in such glowing terms and steeped in the club’s DNA has walked away. Especially when the foundations are built on young, exciting talent. But it’s also true that other players have properly grasped the opportunities given to them.
Brandon Williams (19) and Mason Greenwood (18) – fully-fledged members of the first-team squad, alongside other academy products such as Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay. These players are all flourishing and have followed the same pathway as Gomes.
Over the past three years, the Manchester United academy has been revamped and revolutionised under the leadership of Nick Cox but it’s one game this season that, perhaps, represents the clearest barometer as to where things are with young talent at the club.
Funnily enough, it was the first competitive start for Gomes in the first team as United made a 6000-mile round-trip to Kazakhstan to play Astana in the Europa League in November.
The average age of the team was 22 years and 26 days and while United lost the game 2-1, they managed to give debuts to six youngsters on the night. Alongside Gomes in a four-man midfield, also consisting of another academy graduate in Jesse Lingard, were two other players who have recently committed their futures to Manchester United in James Garner (19) and Tahith Chong (20). Both have yet to make their Premier League debuts but both have opted to stay.
Those are two names that people outside of Manchester United might be familiar with as well but what about two that coaches inside Carrington are talking about and who are making an impression when they train with the first team?
Teden Mengi is an 18-year-old centre-back from Manchester who was an unused substitute in Kazakhstan but whose pace and leadership have caught the eye. One of the six debutants against Astana was another defender, this time a full-back, Ethan Laird, who’s made two Europa League appearances and has been training regularly with the first-team squad.
Undeniably it’s a disappointment that Gomes did not get to establish himself as a midfield option for Manchester United. Nemanja Matic’s revival, the uprising of Scott Mctominay and a reborn Fred along with the Fernandes Pogba partnership must have made it all the more difficult for Angel to think and realize where would he fit in the first team, but none of the blame can or should go to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Nick Cox or Nicky Butt as he and his backroom staff had sent the message out numerous times in the 18 months Ole has been at Carrington that he is more than willing to give youngsters a run for his money “ if they are worth it and up to it “
Sadly, none of those two criteria could be filled by Angel Gomes, otherwise, he would have enjoyed the fruits of the development system of youth as well( like his other Academy Counterparts, Jimmy Garner, Williams and Greenwood to name a few )that has been ingrained in this footballing institution since the days of Jimmy Murphy and Duncan Edwards.
Manchester United still stands against the old adage “ You can never win anything with kids “ and is still living against that philosophy to this day and even though its a shame to have let go of such a brilliant footballing mind, Angel Gomes is still 20 and renowned as well as recognized amongst most of the scouts in Europe. While he may look small, he is also mentally tough. He missed two months with injury but came back and slotted seamlessly into the Under-23s. Throughout his whole life, he has been dismissed as a player that will never succeed due to his stature, but he has constantly made those claims look silly while never letting those claims to impact him negatively. This will certainly help him in the blitz and chaotic world of modern-day European Football even if it didn’t help him in the Premier League and at Manchester United as it turned out to be.
Manchester United confirmed on the 1st of July that Angel Gomes had not taken up the offer of a new contract and has, therefore, left the club. The attacking midfielder made 10 senior appearances in total for the Reds – three of them starts, which all came in this season’s Europa League. His final outing came in the 4-0 defeat of Norwich City at Old Trafford in the Premier League in January.
He’s joined French club Lille until 2025 and was immediately loaned out to Portuguese side Boavista for the rest of the season.
Everybody wishing and supporting Manchester United including us at Red Rants would like to wish Angel the very best of luck for the future and thank him for his efforts for the club. Angel always stuck with us through the highs and the lows, and he stood up and personified what Manchester United is and have always been about.
And he did it as well as anyone could.
All the best Angel Gomes. Adios.