Earlier this month we took a look back at Joe Hugill’s excellent season for Manchester United’s academy sides.
The one academy player to outscore Hugill was Charlie McNeill. So it’s time to now revisit his season and take a look at where it all went right.
How did 2020/21 go?
2020/21 was a huge success for McNeill. He signed from Manchester City for a fee of just over £1 million after deciding he wanted to play for the club he supported.
McNeill wasted no time in making an impact, scoring a brace on his debut against Derby in October.
The young striker seemed to get better and better as the season went on. He finished the season with a hat-trick against Middlesbrough and scored eight goals in his last four games.
At just 17 McNeill has outperformed expectations, with 25 goals in all competitions at under-18 level. He arrived with a big reputation and managed to justify it right away.
Undoubtedly the highlight for McNeill was scoring four goals against former side City in a 4-2 win.
His season included a winning goal against Liverpool too, and he also netted braces against Leeds twice.
What also really stood out was McNeill’s blossoming partnership with Dillon Hoogewerf which sparked his late season goal glut.
There were not many lows for McNeill in a largely outstanding campaign.
The one which stands out is United’s FA Youth Cup fourth round defeat to Liverpool in which he drew a blank in a 1-0 defeat. He had scored in two previous league wins against them.
What were the standout numbers?
McNeill netted 25 times in all competitions. 24 of those goals came in 21 league appearances. The extra goal came in the FA Youth Cup.
In those league games, McNeill averaged a goal every 72 minutes.
He also managed to provide six assists. All six of these came in his last seven games, showing how his game developed as the season went on.
Next step in 2021/22?
McNeill did make two appearances at under-23 level, one as a starter and one from the bench. He failed to score in either.
This is where he has some catching up to do with Hugill, who is also 17, and scored 10 of his goals at under-23 level.
While there may be some under-18 appearances for McNeill next season, he will be challenged to kick on at under-23 level.
United have to work out a way to ensure both McNeill and Hugill get sufficient playing time for the under-23s, and often this may be a case of ‘either or’ unless they can work out how to play together, or the team changes system.
It is too early to talk about McNeill in first team terms yet, but if he has another 20 goal plus season, this time at under-23 level, it will then be time to have that conversation.
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