Anthony Elanga continued his promising start to the season with a goal against Salford City in the EFL Trophy.

This followed an impressive strike in a pre-season friendly draw against Huddersfield.

Elanga finished 2019/20 with seven goals in nine games for the under-18s, in a campaign which saw him miss two months with injury, with his return coming shortly before the lockdown.

Now he is eager to make up for lost time, and kick on for the under-23s.

Coach Neil Wood says he is urging Elanga to focus on the under-23s, but admits the young winger is inspired by his goal of cracking the first team.

Salford v Manchester United U21 - EFL Trophy
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Wood told the MEN: “Anthony has got to concentrate on the Under-23s. He’s got explosive pace, he’s willing to run in behind and tactically he’s very aware on and off the ball

“He came for pre-season raring to go, he’s been out for not just lockdown, he’s been out for months and for him that’s the worst thing ever because he just wants to play football.

“What you see there is a boy that sees the light of the first team and he just wants to get there, he’s going to work every day to try and get himself there.”

Important role

Elanga has an important role for the under-23s, who lack a recognised striker.

There is a glut of talent in the under-18s, so one of the strikers will step up, but for now, Elanga has a lot of pressure to unlock defences.

 

He plays mostly as a left winger, and he can be dangerous cutting inside and running behind defences.

Wood added that he wants Elanga to work on his passing, decision making and crossing, and while these are all aspects he can fine-tune playing for the under-23s, it is clear the raw ability is there.

The 18-year-old has a chance to start putting himself in conversation as a back-up for Marcus Rashford in the first team if he continues to flourish.

Like Hannibal Mejbri, he is a talent who United could struggle to hold back, and unlike the Frenchman, there is a clearer first team path with United’s lack of first team wingers.

Salford v Manchester United U21 - EFL Trophy
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Calm the Mejbri hype?

Hannibal Mejbri was one of United’s star players against Salford and he is tough to ignore.

Neil Wood believes too much should not be expected of the former Monaco talent.

He said: “As much as he’s a good player there’s still a long way to go with Hannibal, he’s still got a lot of learning to do, a lot of improving. You can see the good bits of his play, he’s got great feet, he’s got great vision, he’s tenacious, but there’s still work to be done with him.”

When he plays like he did against Salford this week, scoring one goal and providing two assists, it is tricky not to get carried away. The 17-year-old is a talent with a big future ahead of him.

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