Manchester United are close to wrapping up the signing of promising Sunderland youth talent Joe Hugill.
The Guardian reported last month an agreement is in place for the 16-year-old to sign to join, with United beating competition from Premier League rivals for his signature.
It is important to remember that Hugill is a signing for the academy, and not the first team.
And to this end, Hugill is exactly what Manchester United’s academy needs.
Striker competition needed
Ever since Mason Greenwood followed Marcus Rashford’s path into the Manchester United first team, his absence at academy level has been felt.
That is natural, considering he scored more than 50 goals in two seasons for the under-18s, u19s and u23s before being called up.
United have been left without an obvious strike solution at under-23 level, to the point where attacking midfielders Angel Gomes and Aidan Barlow were filling the void in early 2020.
D’Mani Mellor has a shot, and made his debut in the Europa League against Astana, before injuries disrupted his season. A loan may be in his best interests.
United are clearly thinking long-term, and adding Hugill to the mix is the right move.
Currently United have a few options, but nobody has yet nailed down the role of the main man to follow Greenwood.
Dillon Hoogewerf has made a good start since his summer arrival from Ajax, starring in the under-18s FA Youth Cup run, before suffering a hamstring injury in the win over Leeds.
Deji Sotona has filled in, developing his game and showing he can play as a striker and not just a winger. He has pace to burn and is a strong option, scoring the winner in the Youth Cup quarter-final against Wigan.
Behind Hoogewerf and Sotona, United have last summer’s addition from Real Zaragoza, Mateo Mejia is an option, but this year he has not had an immediate impact, with his start delayed by red tape, before he suffered an injury on his first start.
Attacking midfielder Max Haygarth has also filled in up front at under-18 level when he has been fit (he missed several months with injury this season).
So it is evident to see United have options, but none who are yet wholly convincing. The door is open for each of them to step up.
At the same time, this is why United are looking to add Joe Hugill into the team to see what he is capable of.
Hugill plays for a wretched Sunderland side who sit bottom of the under-18 league, with 0 points from 16 games.
It is tough to get a measure of his ability from this, while also notable that at just 16, he is managing to stand out for a struggling team, netting in a recent defeat to Middlesbrough.
He has even played for the under-23s, scoring twice in a defeat to top of the table West Ham.
At just 16-years-old, Hugill’s impact is notable, and if surrounded by better teammates, he could really thrive.
United consider he is worth taking a gamble on, and there could be a real opportunity for him to stand out at Old Trafford.
Competition is healthy, and his arrival will spur on the talented forwards already in United’s set up.
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