Isak Hansen-Aaroen scored the fourth goal for Manchester United’s under-18s side in a 4-1 win over Sunderland this week.
It was the least he deserved, another yet another encapsulating individual display in which he ran the midfield from start to finish.
The young Norwegian’s injury time goal was a little bit special.
He picked the ball up on the edge of the box facing the bottom left corner. He then dropped his shoulder, turning inside to the right, weaving between three Sunderland players, before shooting the ball back into the bottom left corner of the net where he was originally facing.
Making an impact
Hansen-Aaroen missed a few weeks at the start of the year after returning to Norway over Christmas and returning late. His comeback has been worth the wait.
United’s under-18s have scored 25 goals in the six matches he has played since his return.
The team have won 14 out of 15 league games he has played in this season.
Without him, the team have won just four of seven, losing three. He has quickly become an integral part of the side.
Hansen-Aaroen has scored two goals in his last four games, showing he is getting more confident in the final third, in addition to just influencing the game from deep.
A joy to watch
Hansen-Aaroen is a player who is a joy to watch. He is confident in possession, whether shielding the defence in his own third, or trying to break down the opposition at the other end.
He is always looking for the ball, making one pass, and looking to receive it back, and anecdotally, it seems like he has more touches of the ball than any other player in every match he plays.
He has a trick in his locker too, able to pirouette cleanly on the ball to evade challenges if required.
Hansen-Aaroen does not have high assist or scoring numbers, but that is not how he should be measured. You just have to watch him in action for the under-18s to see how he dominates games. He is the one starting moves off from deep and progressing the ball upfield, and supplying the players who do the damage.
It is a lofty comparison to make, but in terms of possession and style, Hansen-Aaroen has an element of Andres Iniesta to his game.
The reason why Hansen-Aaroen is a joy to watch is that he makes football seem so effortless.
His style is best described as ‘graceful’, with the way he dribbles past opponents with the ball glued to his feet, it looks like he is gliding and playing in slow-motion.
With his bleached blond hair Hansen-Aaroen is easy to spot, and yet he always seems to be in space, available for a pass. His movement and intelligence help set him apart.
It is easy to see why he has already played senior football for Tromso. Under-18s level looks so easy for him, but at just 16, United have no reason to rush him.
Big future ahead
United spent years tracking Hansen-Aaroen and on early impressions, it is easy to see why. But he has to keep his development up.
Next season he will likely move up to the under-23s. He turns 17 in August, and like Shola Shoretire this season, United will push him.
Under-23 football will be more challenging, physically and technically, and yet everything we have seen from Hansen-Aaroen so far suggests he will be able to cope.
It’s too soon to really look beyond that, other than to say that if Hansen-Aaroen can shine at under-23 level, then first team opportunities may follow.
It may take a couple of years, but he looks like the type of talent United won’t be able to hold back.
Norwegian football is currently blessed with a new generation of talents, from Martin Odegaard to Erling Haaland, and Isak Hansen-Aaroen is a future international, having already represented his country at youth level.
United’s academy is packed with young stars, from Hannibal Mejbri to Shola Shoretire to Charlie McNeill.
Hansen-Aaroen may be the most entertaining of all of them to watch, with an all round quality to his game which suggests he could become the complete midfielder.
We have seen young players fail to realise their potential before, and there are no guarantees for Hansen-Aaroen. But he is so gifted that it would be a shock if he does not enjoy a long and successful career.
Isak Hansen-Aaroen: What you need to know
- United agreed to sign Hansen-Aaroen in 2019
The deal had to wait until he turned 16 in August 2020. United sent Aidan Barlow on loan to Tromso as part of the agreement.
- He was a wanted player
United beat competition from both Everton and Liverpool for Hansen-Aaroen’s signature
- Making an impact
Hansen-Aaroen made his debut for Tromso’s first team in July 2020. He made seven appearances in total, all as a substitute, providing an assist on his final appearance.
- Creative midfielder’s move is significant
Hansen-Aaroen is the first Norwegian player signed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since he took over as manager.
- Youth international
Hansen-Aaroen is a Norway youth international. He has scored three goals in three games for the country’s under-16 side and since made his under-18s debut.
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