Anthony Elanga scored for Manchester United against QPR at the weekend in lively 45 minutes.
Elanga, 19, could have had a hat-trick, taking a heavy touch when through on goal, and shooting too casually towards the goalkeeper with his right foot late on when he could have struck it harder with his left.
But rather than focus on those two moments where he could have done better, we would much rather focus on the two standout moments where he did well.
Elanga’s goal was very well taken. He had drifted inside and was picked out by Shola Shoretire, before taking a touch and scoring low from the edge of the box. It was a goal which will lift his confidence.
Late on Elanga’s pace stretched QPR’s defence and his cross in just about evaded Joe Hugill. It was a sign of his attacking instinct and what he can add to the team. He could easily have let his head drop after he blew his one on one at the start of the first half, but he kept going. These things happen, especially bearing in mind the rustiness of pre-season.
Just like for Manchester United’s under-23s last season, Elanga was the most dangerous player in red, and looked like he would make something happen each time he was in possession. It didn’t always come off, but ultimately one goal in 45 minutes of football is not bad at all.
Elanga has six goals in his last seven games for club and country in all competitions, taking into account United’s first team, under-23s, and Sweden’s under-21s.
On the cusp of the first team
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the game he is coming around to including Elanga in United’s first team squad for the upcoming season.
Speaking to the club website Solskjaer said: “It would be easy to say the boy should go on loan, but he’s doing so well.
“He’s electric, his pace, his skill, he’s not afraid of anything and he’s got the courage and the bravery of a Man United player and today he created chances for others and himself, and scored a good goal with his most difficult opportunity.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was staying here. It depends, we know it’s important for him to develop and get game-time, at the moment he’s one of them we’ve not really decided on. If he keeps on like he is I might want to keep him.”
United won’t be short of offers for Elanga if is sent out on loan. But at the moment he is making Solskjaer’s decision for him. In the previous game against Derby he was lively too.
With Marcus Rashford possibly due to have an operation on his shoulder (United have not made a final decision), Elanga could profit as playing on the left is his most natural role. He has a chance to build up some momentum now.
Elanga has done well clearly, to turn Solskjaer’s head. He has the manager’s attention, now he has to keep it.
The teenager will get another opportunity at home to Brentford in midweek. Going up against a Premier League side will be a big test. Elanga has some experience from facing Leicester and Wolves at the end of last season, scoring against the latter.
United are back at Old Trafford on Wednesday night in front of a crowd and that will be a new experience for Elanga. Solskjaer will be looking to see how he handles it, along with the pressure of knowing the manager is considering him for a bigger role.
There are two more pre-season games to follow against Preston and then Everton, and Elanga will have to compete with returning international players. The work he has put in over the past three weeks of pre-season should set him up well.
Dan James will also be pushing to carve out a role on the left side and the duel can bring out the best in both players. Elanga has a fair chance.
Elanga is halfway to securing a first team spot for next season, Solskjaer has given him an opening. What happens next is down to him.
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