Under-23s: Marcus Rashford
A year like no other that seemed to awake a dormant youth system at United as a combination of injuries saw Rashford break into the first-team, but it was the Mancunian’s performances and talent which ensured he stayed exactly there.
Rashford’s ascent is mapped out well by his goal tally of 2016. 23 in total; 7 at under-18 level, 3 for the under-19s, 1 for the under-21s and then 12 for the first-team. Add to this scoring a hat-trick on his England under-21s debut and a goal on his England debut. Rashford’s year has been incomparable to any other footballer of his age.
The signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has since pried Rashford onto the wing and more recently onto the bench. Despite a quiet spell towards the back end of this year, he is much better placed when you consider December 2015 saw Rashford struggle to get a start under Warren Joyce. There is still has much more to come in 2017.
Best Moment: Breezing past Demichelis and then Joe Hart as he netted the winner on derby day in March. Incidentally neither of those players feature for City anymore.
Tuanzebe started the year on his way back from injury, and his patience has paid off as he has worked towards being the best player in the reserve side and one of the most promising youth players at the club.
Since James Weir departed to Hull, Axel has taken on the captaincy for the under-23s this season, at only 19 his level of composure and maturity put into his defensive work is reminiscent of a 29 year old stalwart.
One of a select few to start all 16 of the under-23s games in 2016/17 forming a solid partnership with Regan Poole. His reading of the game makes him one step ahead of any forward coming towards him.
It looked as though Mourinho’s arrival would really boost his first-team chances but Jose’s praises are yet to materialize into a debut, but it is only a matter of time.
Best Moment: Scoring a well timed header from away to Chelsea in November, his first goal at reserve level.
Under-18s: Angel Gomes
The perfect number 10, Angel Gomes’ progression this year has caused ripples of excitement throughout the club at the prospect of this 16 year old and with Kieran McKenna in charge he is in capable hands.
With a satisfying 11 goals and 11 assists in 2016 Gomes offers everything you could want from a creative attacking midfielder, his link up play and tight control is what his game is all about and it has thrived with the attacking talent around him within the under-18 squad.
Not only is Gomes establishing himself at United, he also captains England under-17s and lead his country to a resounding 8-1 victory over Germany in October, scoring 1 and assisting 2 in the game.
Unsurprisingly there has been interest from Barcelona, but every top club in Europe will have tabs on Gomes. After all he is one of the most exciting 16-year olds in football at the moment, lets just be thankful he grew up in Salford as Gomes goes into 2017 with the world at his feet.
Best Moment: Scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 victory over Everton in August.
The Belgian winger finished last season as the under-18s top scorer and has maintained his prolific form throughout 2016. With 13 goals and 11 assists, Boonen has been vital to the McKenna’s side.
The former Genk man is just the type of player you want to see coming through, his unpredictability is well balanced with a clinical edge to his game as shown by his goals tally. One of the most direct wingers in the side who runs relentlessly at any defender brave enough to attempt to tackle him.
The flashes of skill produced by the winger has lit up the under-18 side, highlights include an unbelievable assist against Everton and leaving a Liverpool defender for dead early this season. Despite an early FA Youth Cup exit this season, 2017 holds a lot of potential for the under-18 squad and especially Indy Boonen.
Best Moment: An impressive hat-trick in the 7-1 victory over Newcastle at the back end of last season.
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