The race is on to be Manchester United’s top academy goalscorer in the 2021/22 season. As ever, the youngsters are providing encouragement amid a drab first team campaign.
United have five players at under-23 or under-18s level who have hit double figures for goals this season, and there are still a few games remaining, including the FA Youth Cup final.
We have tracked all the goals through the season, from the under-23 and under-18s leagues, the UEFA Youth League, the EFL Trophy, and the Premier League Cup, with all of the players competing in multiple competitions.
The battle to finish the campaign as top scorer is wide open, with three players separated by one goal. And with opportunities potentially opening up in the first team, there is plenty of motivation to finish the season strongly.
Alejandro Garnacho: 16 goals
Alejandro Garnacho has made the leap this season, having struck seven goals last year. He began his campaign with a hat-trick against Birmingham in the Premier League Cup, including a superb free-kick.
Five of Garnacho’s goals have come in the FA Youth Cup, all at Old Trafford, and he struck another at United’s home ground for the under-23s.
Three of Garnacho’s goals have been for the under-23 side, and his prolific form has been rewarded with a call-up to United’s first team, where he has been on the bench for the last three Premier League games, and a surprise Argentina call-up.
Garnacho has also provided a further six assists, making him United’s joint top academy contributor, narrowly, with 22 goal contributions.
Joe Hugill: 16 goals
Joe Hugill began the season leading the line for United’s under-23s before being hit with injury. D’Mani Mellor’s return from loan has seen him bumped back down to the under-18s.
This has helped him score more regularly, as he has been prolific in recent weeks. Hugill’s record is like Garnacho’s, three for the under-23s, and 13 for the under-18s – which includes 11 in 10 league games.
Despite this, Hugill may have to settle for a place on the bench in the FA Youth Cup final, as he has not started a game in the competition yet this season. It is a nice luxury for United to have.
Charlie McNeill: 15 goals
Charlie McNeill grabbed a brace for United’s under-18s this week to extend his goal tally for the season, where his game time has been spread out.
Last season he scored 25 goals, all for the under-18s. This season he has played most of his league campaign at under-23s level until the past couple of months, and has led the line effectively with Garnacho in the Youth Cup.
McNeill has matched Garnacho, with five goals in five Youth Cup games, and he also chipped in with a further seven assists, also taking his goal contributions to the season to 22.
Manni Norkett: 11 goals
Manni Norkett began the season strongly as the lead forward for the under-18s. He has since been impacted by Hugill and McNeill dropping down, limiting his game time.
This is reflected in only one of Norkett’s 11 goals coming in 2022. He missed a penalty a fortnight ago which could have helped improve this.
Still only 17, Norkett’s time to shine will be next season, when Hugill and McNeill will no longer be eligible at under-18s level.
Ethan Ennis: 10 goals
It’s a mini-miracle Ethan Ennis is even in the conversation, having struck only one goal in 2021 after signing from Liverpool.
In recent weeks he has hit form, scoring in successive games, reaching the 10 goal mark, to underline why United signed him.
Ennis’ form was helped by Garnacho stepping up to the under-23s, giving him extra responsibility and game time at under-18s level. His form has put him in contention to start in the FA Youth Cup final.
Sam Mather and Shola Shoretire have both scored nine goals each, almost in double figures. Both have reached double figures for assists, Mather with 12 and Shoretire with 11, meaning they each have 20 goal contributions plus each.
Both feats are impressive. Mather is in his first season at under-18s level and has played a key role in United’s FA Youth Cup, scoring three of the goals along the way.
Shoretire’s goals and assists have come at a higher level, in under-23 matches and UEFA Youth League games, and both he and Mather have trained with the first team in recent weeks.