On May 20th 2017, Angel Gomes was speaking on the phone. He’d already been told by Jose Mourinho that he was part of Manchester United’s first-team squad for the next day’s season finale against Crystal Palace. Now he was chatting with Dwaine Rashford, brother of Marcus and one of many people with links to United giddy about the prospect of the then-16-year-old Gomes.
Gomes is 19 now but has only made three further appearances for United, suffering from the ever-present turbulence that has embroiled England’s most successful football club.
At the time of his debut in red, few doubted that Gomes was on par with England’s other enticing attacking prospects; Sancho, Foden and Hudson-Odoi. Many would have put him a level above. He was, after all, captain of the World Cup-winning U17 side.
Gomes left in no man’s land at United
We no longer know what his level is. Successive managers in Mourinho and Solskjaer have left Gomes in no man’s land, irregularly featuring for the U23s while travelling with the first team but rarely making the matchday squad. United must learn lessons from their rivals and give Gomes a chance.
It remains early in the season and you can be sure that the Europa League and EFL Cup fixtures will force United’s hand somewhat given the Reds only have 15 first team players over the age of 21 now. But Gomes is an important issue.
His current deal expires on June 30, 2020. Represented by Gest Eleven, Gomes is the Portuguese agency’s most valuable asset. He loves United and loves Salford, but could be drawn away by an offer of first-team chances.
More and more English footballers of all ages are seeking first-team football away from the Home Nations. United defender Chris Smalling is the kind of player who would never have left the Premier League for AS Roma and Serie A in times gone by but now feels able to take on such a challenge and life experience.
Sancho and Pogba sagas should teach United lessons
Jadon Sancho is lighting up the Bundesliga after leaving Man City. In his final season before signing for Dortmund, Sancho was given five appearances in the FA Cup. It wasn’t enough, and his exit decision has been vindicated.
United had their own Sancho-situation back in 2011 with Paul Pogba. They cannot assume that because Gomes is a Salford boy he’ll not follow a similar route to the £89 million midfielder.
Chances should be aplenty this season due to the thin nature of the first-team squad, but Solskjaer must take the brave decision and place Gomes ahead of senior figures like Mata, who gets on well with the 19-year-old, in the pecking order. Five FA Cup or Europa League appearances won’t be enough, as Sancho showed. Gomes needs more than a 10-minute cameo at the end of a comfortable victory, he needs to be shown some genuine faith.