Comparisons can be tough for young players. They can be both inspiring, and a huge compliment, while also cranking up pressure and expectation at a critical stage of their careers.
Former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino once burdened a young player called Marcus Edwards when he compared him to Lionel Messi. He was sold in 2019 with just one appearance to his name.
United have seen it dozens of times through the years too. Adnan Januzaj was touted as the next Ronaldo by David Moyes.
Now 19-year-old Ethan Galbraith is the latest to get the treatment, courtesy of Northern Ireland under-21 coach Mark Barraclough.
Barraclough told Belfast Live: “Not to put too much pressure on his shoulders, but he’s our little (Andres) Iniesta or Xavi, someone who can get on the ball and manipulate the ball and find positive passes.”
The comparison is a big compliment for Galbraith, and it also could end up looking quite ridiculous in a few year’s time.
Jesse Lingard and Larnell Cole were once likened to the pair by Danny Welbeck.
Welbeck told The Guardian in 2012: “Sometimes I train against Larnell and Jesse and think I’m playing against a little Iniesta and Xavi. I really hope they can make that step up.”
Cole is now playing for non-league side Radcliffe Boro, while Lingard is still at United, but as a squad player who has failed to reach the lofty heights tipped of him.
Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen also spoke highly of Lingard.
He told the MEN just this year: “Jesse always had attributes in his game as [Andres] Iniesta had for Barcelona.”
Galbraith can aim for the top
Lingard’s career is a dose of realism to calm the Galbraith and Xavi/Iniesta comparisons with.
If you offered Ethan Galbraith the career Jesse Lingard has had, he would certainly take that right now. He need only look at Larnell Cole’s trajectory to see how it can go the other way.
Lingard has scored in a FA Cup Final, netted at the World Cup, and played more than 200 first team games for United.
Galbraith should aim even higher perhaps. He is a player with real talent, and he featured for the first team in United’s only pre-season match.
He signed a new contract a week ago running to 2023 with an option for a further year.
At just 19 he made his Northern Ireland senior debut last year and his recent international under-21 games have become a personal showcase for an individual skills highlight reel.
Injury has delayed his season slightly. He came back to score the winner for the under-23s in their last match, a penalty winner over Everton.
It will take a lot of luck and determination for Galbraith to make the breakthrough into a packed Red Devils midfield. Right now, he has to believe in himself and continue to work hard – while not letting these comments go to his head or weigh him down.
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