16-year-old Joe Hugill’s electric start to life in Manchester United’s academy continued with a second-half goal in the Reds’ dramatic 3-3 draw with Arsenal under-23s.
Arnau Puigmal, meanwhile, returned from injury to make an immediate impact with two goals either side of half-time.
Puigmal leads young United side to draw vs Arsenal
United faced an Arsenal side with a great deal of experience. The Gunners gave opportunities to first-team players Cedric Soares, Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock and William Saliba.
Puigmal put United in front after only three minutes but a Nelson free-kick drew things level. United’s Catalan midfielder scored early in the second half, too, pouncing on the loose ball after a missed penalty and converting.
Joe Hugill netted soon after for his fifth goal of the season. The 2003-born centre-forward joined from Sunderland in the summer and netted a double in his under-18s debut in mid-September.
16-year-old Joe Hugill shows great potential
His arrival into the under-23s at such a young age is a result of United’s decision to loan out a number of key, high-profile players in the squad.
Hugill is one of many young teenagers who have been promoted into the under-23s at an early stage. The benefit to his development could be huge.
Hugill will slowly begin to bulk out over the next couple of seasons but he’s shown his quality with both feet already. Mason Greenwood’s example will be used as motivation for Hugill.
Tuanzebe not involved for U23s
Despite suggestions earlier in the week that Axel Tuanzebe could make his return from injury in Saturday lunchtime’s game against Arsenal, the England defender was not involved.
Tuanzebe suffered multiple setbacks last season after initially impressing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team. His last game for the seniors was in 2019.
Some have suggested that Harry Maguire’s terrible display for England last week could see him taken out of the firing line by Solskjaer. That would leave space for Tuanzebe to be brought back in.
United start incredibly young U23s side
Though it was an under-23s game, very few of United’s starting line-up were even over 18.
Will Fish (17) and Teden Mengi (18) were the central defensive pairing and United were led by Hannibal Mejbri (17), Shola Shoretire (16), Anthony Elanga (18) and Hugill (16).
It resembles the FA Youth Cup team of last season. Many of these players will be involved when United finish their FA Youth Cup campaign.
The tournament’s closing stages (semi-finals and final) will be played at St. George’s Park and United must beat Chelsea to progress into the final. Mengi captained the team last season and could drop back down into it to try and secure a first tournament win for United since 2011.
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