Anthony Elanga ended the season with a flourish for club and country.
Elanga netted two goals in two games for Sweden’s under-21s to add to his goal for Manchester United’s first team against Wolves.
The short stint for Sweden earned him rave reviews, with FotbollSkanalen suggesting it will not be long before he is called up by the senior side. Current boss Janne Anderson has already reportedly checked in on his progress,
United under-23s teammate Hannibal has shown the way, playing senior football for Tunisia this past month. Elanga could soon follow.
Elanga spoke to his attitude reflecting on a 6-0 win over Luxembourg. He told FotbollSkanalen: “I told the others when we led 5-0 that we can make five more. When I had the ball, I wanted to move forward all the time.”
They won the game 6-0 in the end, but it is clear Elanga’s willingness not just to settle, comes from his attacking drive instilled into him at Manchester United.
The young attacker finished the season as United’s top scorer at under-23 level. His tally of 11 would have been a lot higher if not for a collarbone injury.
Elanga said: “I had a big injury in January where I could not play in eight weeks. They said I came back very quickly. The club took care of me very much. If it were not for them, I would not have made my debut at United and I might not have been here with the U21 national team either.”
The teenager is still on holiday and there is some curiosity surrounding his next move.
Give him a first team chance or send him on loan?
With one goal in two first team games, Elanga has answered the first question of whether he can contribute at first team level.
The youngster can play both up front and on the left, and could end up being a replacement for Anthony Martial.
United may not be ready to move on from Martial yet, and Elanga could find more success simply deputising for Marcus Rashford on the left.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have to become less dependent on Rashford. This could be enforced by the England international’s injury issues.
Dan James will also be competing on the left, while Jadon Sancho can and will play there too if he eventually signs.
So the biggest concern for Elanga is not necessarily whether he can cut it, but whether he will get the opportunities he deserves.
This is a crucial year of development for him and Elanga needs more than simply under-23 football.
The other option then is to send Elanga out on loan. It is likely Derby County and Wayne Rooney could take an interest, as could other Championship clubs.
Top flight teams abroad may also be keen and United will have to weigh up what is in Elanga’s best interests; to play in a top division or get more experience in English football.
Sweden under-21 coach Poya Asbaghi said: “He is an exciting player and he is very humble who does not come with any kind of prestige just because he is from Manchester United. He has his feet on the ground.”
The first task for Elanga, 19, will be to make an impression in pre-season. The late arrival of players from Euro 2020 and the Copa America will provide extra chances for young players to make an impression.
While the attacking group is a crowded mix at United, Elanga will get a chance to show Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he can be indispensable and should be kept around, rather than sent out on loan. Mason Greenwood grabbed his opportunity in 2019 and has not looked back, with 29 first team goals since. Elanga could get the chance to follow.
Greenwood like Elanga finished the season prior with a late season first team debut. He then scored in pre-season games against Leeds and Inter Milan. The Englishman may have been a rare talent, to do so at just 17, but Elanga has worked hard to put himself in position to now follow his success. Even if it takes an extra year and a loan deal, the youngster is on the right track.
The good news is Elanga has momentum, confidence, and importantly ability. He should flourish whichever path is chosen for him in 2021/22.
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