Barcelona born talent Arnau Puigmal scored twice for the under-23 side on Monday evening in a 4-1 win against Middlesbrough.

Though behind a number of other talented midfielders, he’s developing well after a 2017 move to the club.

Arnau Puigmal scores stunning free-kick

Puigmal became a Red after a storming performance against United. He was playing for the under-16s side of Espanyol, his boyhood club, at the Mediterranean International Cup.

He was named Player of the Tournament and took his Espanyol side to the final. Then known as one of the finest talents at Espanyol’s youth system, United moved quickly to sign him up and bring him to England before FC Barcelona and others could take action. 

“A really dynamic, technical midfield player,” is how current first team coach Kieran McKenna described Puigmal. The Northern Irishman was the youngster’s manager for a season at under-18 level. That relationship will only help him in his quest for first team chances at Old Trafford.

United sent Puigmal to right-back to improve

Puigmal has had some hurdles to overcome. A deliberate and concerted effort to improve his defensive acumen led to him being played consistently in an unfamiliar right-back position. It seems to have worked to a certain extent.

The 18-year-old is now a more balanced player but he’s suffered from that decision, too. His reputation is not quite the same as that of James Garner, Dylan Levitt or Ethan Galbraith, all of whom are ahead of him in the pecking order now.

 

Perhaps Puigmal will develop quickly over this season but it’s more likely that the project that surrounds his progress is a gradual one.

He has a bit of magic to him. That much was evident when he curled in a superb free-kick to open the scoring against Middlesbrough. It was an effort to match that of Marcus Rashford at Chelsea last week.

He then produced a fine finish to double his, and United’s tally, at the end of the first half. There were Puigmal’s first goals for the under-23s side.

He’s played in four positions already this season and has had to be versatile. It’s a process that should help him in the long-run. The risk of course is that he’ll be left as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.

This season is crucial in Puigmal’s progress

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Mason Greenwood and Arnau Puigmal of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on May 09, 2019 in Manchester, England.
(Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)

A regular for United’s under-23s now, and a youth international for Spain, Puigmal is set for a good season. More consistent playing time in central midfield will help his reputation to grow. He trained with United’s first team at the end of last seasonn.

Floating under the radar could help. He’s industrious, technically gifted and has the potential to be a United first teamer.

It will be difficult, and he’s already a bit behind his competitors in the academy. The performances as a 16-year-old for Espanyol are being beaten by those of Puigmal today. More hard work, more focused progress in certain areas and his stock will rise, perhaps even high enough to get a first team chance in the next couple of years.

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