With 6th place already sewn up and a Europa League final against Ajax looming, Jose Mourinho turned to youth for Manchester United’s final game of the Premier League season.
The Red Devils fielded no fewer than eight academy graduates in their starting XI against Crystal Palace including debutants Demetri Mitchell, Scott McTominay and goalscorer Josh Harrop.
However, another United prospect made his debut off the pitch and in doing so became the first player born this millennium to feature in the Premier League, 16-year-old playmaker Angel Gomes.
Here is everything you need to know about United’s next big thing.
Story so far
Gomes certainly comes from a strong footballing family. His father Gil Gomes progressed through the academy of Benfica and played for the Portugal U20 side that won the World Cup in 1991 playing alongside the likes of Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Joao Pinto, Jorge Costa and Abel Xavier.
Furthermore, Gomes’ is a family friend with none other than former Manchester United winger Luis Nani who played for the Red Devils between 2007-2015 prior to joining Fenerbahce and then Valencia.
Gomes was born in London but raised in Manchester after his father had joined Salford City and he was enrolled in United’s esteemed academy by the age of 13.
Since joining United, Gomes has regularly played above his age group and this season graduated to the Under-18 side despite only turning 16 on August 31st, 2016. Furthermore, he has been a regular for England’s youth teams and captained the Three Lions U17 team throughout their successful qualification campaign for the recent European Championships.
His form led to him becoming the latest recipient of United’s Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award given to the club’s best young player of the season. Players such as Giuseppe Rossi, Danny Welbeck and Marcus Rashford have won the award in the past decade and Gomes is the youngest player to ever win it.
Speaking after winning the award, Gomes said to MUTV: “It’s a dream come true. Being a young age, it’s things like this you wish for. All the hard work you put in at the training ground – this is the end result.
“I’ve missed a lot of the last two months through injury and the other lads have been consistent, so when I heard my name get called out, it was quite a surprise and a real honour.”
Style of play
Gomes is renowned for his ability and creativity on the ball and generally operates in an attacking midfield position behind the striker or on either flank for both United and England’s youth teams.
Should he play against Palace, expect to Gomes demanding possession of the ball and attempting to make things happen through mazy dribbling skills or inch-perfect through balls.
While he is a talented playmaker having supplied six assists for United’s U18s this season, Gomes is also an accomplished finisher as he has netted 12 times in the Premier League from 19 appearances. His record for England U17s meanwhile, reads three goals from seven matches.
He has always been a prolific goalscorer at youth level and last year became only the third player in United’s history to score a hat-trick for the U18 academy team before his 16th birthday, aged just 15 years 11 months and 29 days.
What’s been said about him
Nicky Butt, Manchester United’s Head of the Academy: “The technical quality’s there. It’s ridiculous. I look at the kids and they’re miles better than I was at their age — technically. We’ve got some unbelievable players. Angel Gomes [a 16-year-old midfielder] is a young talented player we’ve massive hopes for.”
Kieran McKenna, Manchester United’s U18 coach: “Angel is clever and I think with him, first of all, he’s got a really fantastic attitude towards the game. He loves his football and is bright and curious. He’s interested in every training session and you can see that on the pitch.
“He’s always bright, always looking for his team-mates and always looking at the opposition too, trying to find a way to exploit any weaknesses they have got. He has a fantastic football brain really and a good attitude to go with it.”
Clayton Blackmore, former Manchester United defender: “There is a lad coming through called Angel Gomes, who could play tomorrow. I think he’s that good. He’s got an old head on his shoulders as well.
“He’s good enough to be in the first team now but it’s going to take him a year or two before everybody trusts him.
“A lot could happen in those two years, so hopefully, he’s going to be still there and play for the first team soon.”
Tony Park, Manchester United youth historian: “His close control is exceptional. His touches, his flicks, his ability to control to movement up front is very different compared to Febian [Brandy] and Jess [Lingard]. So, if he continues to develop he could turn into something very, very special.”