It has been a disappointing season for Manchester United. Despite an ambitious summer transfer window, the club have failed to seriously compete for either the Premier League or the Champions League. The next few weeks will shape the short term future, as they will attempt to finish in the top four and appoint a new manager. This season, there has been little to get excited about for supporters. However, one promising player has emerged, Anthony Elanga.
Manchester United have an impressive record of developing players and getting them into the first team. It is more important now than ever before that this production line continues. Elanga’s rise suggests that the good work in the academy continues. It has been a great achievement for the young Swede to get into the first team ahead of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho at times, which underlines how highly thought of he is at the club.
This season, he has played 12 matches in the Premier League. This number increases to 18 across all competitions. These have come primarily as a substitute, but eight have come as a starter.
Elanga has scored three goals across all competitions. His finest moment came in the Champions League. Many in the team shrank in the matches against Atletico. In truth, the Spanish champions were easily the better team in both legs. However, in Spain, Elanga came off the bench and made an impact, scoring an excellent goal to bring United back on level terms.
It showed maturity and composure to keep his cool at a crucial moment. Elanga has the mental attributes to thrive at the highest level. Ralf Rangnick is well respected as a coach with an eye for potential. It speaks volumes that the German interim head coach has identified Elanga as an individual capable of playing in big matches at the age of 19.
There limited minutes mean that too much can’t be read into Elanga’s underlying metrics. He is still developing, but one obvious trait is his goal-scoring ability. The teenager averages 0.36 non-penalty expected goals per ninety minutes. This places him in the 87th percentile among wingers. There is a rawness to the rest of his game and he will need more playing time to develop as a Premier League player.
In addition to his goal-scoring ability, Elanga has a high work rate and is well suited to a pressing game. This is one of the key reasons he has thrived under Rangnick. He averages 22.37 pressures and 2.16 tackles per ninety minutes, both rating in the 93rd percentile among forwards.
If Elanga can maintain his work rate and goal threat, he will continue to do well in senior football. The uncertainty over the futures of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood mean that there is an opportunity to become a regular player for Manchester United in the coming years.
The appointment of the next head coach will be important. Erik ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino are both coaches that like to operate a pressing style. Further to this, they are both known for developing young players.
It seems inevitable that Elanga’s future is bright and it is likely to take place at Old Trafford.