So Angel Gomes is getting closer to leaving Manchester United. It’s a scenario we feared all season, and his contract expiry is now just a day away.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted at his press conference today that he now expects Gomes to leave.
Gomes’ departure is sad for United. This is a player who has come through the club’s academy and was on the verge of stardom. He just has not quite been able to make the next step.
There is some blame to be apportioned here. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must shoulder a little, having failed to give Gomes first team chances this season.
He has just 17 Premier League minutes to his name in 2019/20, while Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard have both racked up more than 1,000. Surely there was a point where Solskjaer needed to give Gomes a closer look?
But that argument shall be closed for now. Gomes is moving on, and so shall United.
What lies ahead for Gomes?
Perhaps Gomes simply did not show enough in training in terms of quality, physicality or commitment to convince his manager. Perhaps he was simply badly advised behind the scenes?
The reality was that if he wanted to stay, he would have had to go out on loan for the season, and then try to crack United’s team in 2021/22.
The signing of Bruno Fernandes has shown the level United want of a player in this position. Gomes is not there yet.
If he signs with another Premier League club, a Chelsea or an Arsenal, he is likely to find his chances similarly difficult to come by.
He may be well advised to follow the route of England youth teammate Marcus Edwards who quit Tottenham in a similar scenario, to join mid-table Portuguese side Vitoria de Guimares, where he is rebuilding his career to become a star, thanks to regular football. A step back, to take two forward.
There is no doubt of Gomes’ talent, but you would expect by now that he would have managed to get more of an imprint on United, at the age of 19, if he was truly special. He will leave with no goals, and no assists to his name from 10 appearances spanning 320 minutes of football.
It might very well be that Gomes ends up regretting this gamble, and wishing he had taken United’s offer.
The Pogba and Sancho fear
The fear for United is that Gomes goes elsewhere and becomes one of football’s top stars.
A move abroad may help him blossom, in the same way Paul Pogba freed himself to flourish at Juventus, and how Jadon Sancho left Manchester City to propel himself to stardom.
Perhaps it is a necessary step, all round. If he is good enough, United may eventually buy him back. It would be a bad look for the club, but for the player, if this happens, his decision to leave will be vindicated.
In the meantime Gomes could haunt United, if he signs with a club like AC Milan and starts lighting up Serie A on a weekly basis. Further questions will be directed towards Solskjaer’s handling of the player over the past year.
Part of the mistake lies with the board too, for even allowing Gomes’ contract situation to get to this point.
A new opportunity
Football is littered with wonderkids who show a lot of promise and just don’t make it, for various reasons. The pressure is on Gomes now.
He could easily become another Adnan Januzaj or Saidy Janko, players United were tipped to regret letting go, but didn’t.
United will move on. Gomes contributed nothing to United’s season, and in terms of a tangible loss, United are losing just a concept, a vision of the player he could become, rather than a major piece of the team.
His departure can benefit United in a couple of ways. We could look to the transfer market to sign another young player in the position.
One possible player is Argentine whizkid Thiago Almada, and attacking midfielder rated as one of the best in the world in his age group, managed by Solskjaer’s former teammate Gabriel Heinze at Velez Sarsfield.
Almada was linked last month (TMW). A deal did not make sense if United kept Gomes and committed to him. With him gone, there is added reason to pursue a move.
Or United could simply look to the academy, again, and prioritise players coming through to fast-track.
Could James Garner’s creative instincts be harnessed into making him a more complete all round attacking midfielder than Gomes?
There will be hype around a potential fast-track for young midfielder Hannibal Mejbri too, who fans hope could be special.
There are big talents too with the likes of Omari Forson and Anthony Elanga and Shola Shoretire, who have to prove themselves in the under-23s first, but each possess the talent to make an impact in attacking roles in United’s first team over the next two years.
There is a fear of course that Gomes could set a trend. Largie Ramazani has also left to fast-track his first team chances.
It is in United’s interests to give opportunities to young players to prevent them walking away, but the club won’t be held to ransom.
Progression for Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams this season emphasises the point that if the players are good enough, in terms of talent and mental maturity, they will get the opportunities they want, and United will be stronger for it.
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