Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Next big Man Utd breakthrough stars assessed after Kobbie Mainoo lays down massive marker

Ryan Baldi
Omari Forson, Dan Gore

TT takes an in-depth look at who could be the next rising star at Man Utd

The emergence of Kobbie Mainoo this season and the breakthrough of Alejandro Garnacho the year before point to Manchester United’s famous production line being as strong as ever.

Few clubs in world football enjoy as deep a connection with their youth system as the 20-time champions, who’ve produced such greats as Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, George Best, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes over decades of sustained developmental success.

This season saw United under-18s win the Premier League North for the first time in six years, while the club’s run of consecutive first-team matchday squads to include at least one homegrown youngster stretched past the 4,250 mark and 18-year-old striker Ethan Wheatley became the 250th academy graduate to debut for United.

Here are five standouts from United’s academy who could soon follow Mainoo’s path to senior stardom.

Omari Forson

Versatile forward Omari Forson already has six first-team appearances under his belt this season and he registered a first senior assist when setting up Mainoo to score a dramatic late winner in February’s thrilling 4-3 win away to Wolves in what was his Premier League debut.

The London-born 19-year-old joined United from Tottenham in 2019 and stood out in the Red Devils youth categories for his speed, direct dribbling and ability to break in behind defences to score.

Forson, who will turn 20 in July, will be hopeful of greater first-team involvement next season. However, the young winger is out of contract this summer. With no announcement yet over fresh terms at Old Trafford, his future might lie elsewhere.

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Dan Gore

Midfielder Dan Gore was a regular presence around the Manchester United first team in the early part of the 2023-24 season. He was named among the senior side’s substitutes several times before making his debut in the EFL Cup against Crystal Palace in September. A Premier League debut arrived in December when he replaced Christian Eriksen in stoppage time during a 3-2 Old Trafford victory over Aston Villa.

The 19-year-old was then loaned out to League One side Port Vale in January with the aim of bolstering his exposure to senior football. But a thigh injury picked up in his debut meant he only made one appearance for the club before returning to United to rehabilitate.

Gore impressed during pre-season last summer and was developmentally on level pegging with Mainoo as the season began. But injuries and Mainoo’s rapid progress have since hampered his chances.

Shea Lacey

Although he was born in Liverpool to a Red-supporting family, and he has been compared to Manchester City star Phil Foden, gifted winger Shea Lacey is United through and through.

His older brother Paddy was with United and Liverpool as a youngster before combining a semi-professional football career with professional boxing and a day job as a carpet fitter. If he is able to maximise his talent, it’s unlikely the younger Lacey will require such moonlighting.

A left-footed set-piece specialist, Lacey is a dynamic and skilled dribbler who is typically stationed on the left flank, cutting inside on to his stronger foot to create and threaten goal.

Harry Amass

Left-back Harry Amass has been a regular for United’s title-winning under-18s side this season, despite only having turned 17 in March.

The London-born England under-17 defender was a standout in Watford’s academy and even made the bench for the Hornets’ first team as a 15-year-old, before signing for United last summer.

An athletic, attack-minded full-back, Amass has – ahem – amassed one goal and registered three assists in the Premier League North this season. The former England under-17 captain so impressed that he was invited to train with the first team in February, a month before he penned his first professional contract, and has been named among the senior side’s substitutes five times.

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Amir Ibragimov

Having only turned 16 last month, a potential first-team breakthrough for Amir Ibragimov might be a little further away than some of the other players listed here. But his performances in United’s youth teams suggest a bright future for the Dagestan-born teenager.

Ibragimov hails from impressive sporting stock, with his older brother, Ibragim, an undefeated professional MMA fighter, and he two younger brothers, Mo and Gazik, part of the youth academies of Manchester City and United, respectively.

Able to play as a striker or an attacking midfielder, Ibragimov is a confident dribbler with a penchant for a cheeky nutmeg. He is a fearsome goal threat, too, possessing an unerring ability to hit the target with power from any angle.

Eligible to play for either Russia or England at international level, he has thus far chosen to represent the Three Lions, making his under-15s debut last year.

A star and prolific scorer at under-16 level, Ibragimov has already played for United’s under-18s and under-21s. He has even trained with Erik ten Hag’s first team this season and has had a personal meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson.