Academy star with over 600 goals could be the new Van Persie
Manchester United are a team famed for bringing players through their prestigious youth academy to play an important role in the first team.
This was embodied in the Sir Alex Ferguson era as he brought through the “class of 92”, featuring Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville
While six of the names listed above played a pivotal role during the most successful period in the club’s history, winning countless Premier League titles and even a treble-winning campaign in the 1998/99 season, a remarkable eight of the 14 trainees in 1991 went onto make their first-team debut for the club.
This stat is unrecognizable in the modern game with the riches displacing opportunities for youth products to impress, but at Old Trafford, it is the norm. As of October 2022, for the past 86 years, a homegrown player had featured in every matchday squad with the sequence beginning on Saturday 30 October 1937.
In the present day, the most notable player to break into the first team and leave an ever-lasting impact is Marcus Rashford. Having scored a brace on his Premier League debut against Arsenal in 2016, the 25-year-old has gone on to make 369 appearances for the club, chalking up 124 goals and 69 assists.
Currently, there are a few youngsters in the youth setup who are ready to make the step-up and one of those is Charlie McNeill who will be hoping to make a similar impact to Rashford in the first-team.
Who is Charlie McNeill?
After departing the club as a schoolboy, the 20-year-old returned from rivals Manchester City in 2020 and has since continued his prolific goal-scoring at youth level.
For the Red Devils’ respective youth sides, McNeill has chalked up an impressive 58 goal contributions in 72 appearances which has led to subsequent high praise and hype surrounding his clinical exploits.
Erik ten Hag rewarded McNeill for his stellar form in the youth ranks last season. He brought him off the bench for his first team debut in the latter stages of their group stage loss to Real Sociedad and despite the defeat, Robbie Savage heaped praise on the youngster for the hard work he’s put in to get to this point.
While speaking on BT Sport commentary, the fellow Man United academy graduate said: “He’s scored lots of goals in the youth academy. He’s a great lad, so (I’m) delighted for Charlie and his family that he’s made his first-team debut. I know exactly how his family will be feeling, they’ll be so proud.”
McNeill joined League Two side Newport County in January and only managed two goals in 20 appearances, however, League One Stevenage were willing to take a chance on him this season, and he’s repaid them with a goal on his debut.
What is Charlie McNeill’s play style?
Having established himself as one of the most formidable young strikers in Europe during his time at Man City and is credited with over 600 goals at youth level, including 110 goals and 38 assists in one season for City’s U15’s, McNeill is a striker that needs no introduction about where the back of the net is.
He has an array of inventive finishes in his locker, from poacher goals to long-range finishes, drawing comparisons to a former Old Trafford hero, Robin van Persie.
The Dutchman was known for his ability to produce the spectacular – think of his iconic diving header that stunned the world against Spain in the 2014 World Cup or his sumptuous volley against Aston Villa in 2013.
He could score every type of goal, and it was that instinct, ingenuity and technique that saw him lead United to the Premier League title in the 2012/13 season, scoring 26 goals in 38 appearances.
Using his cultured left foot as a weapon of mass destruction, van Persie left Ferguson speechless following his volley against Villa with the Scotsman drawing high praise towards the Dutch dynamo, saying:
“It was the goal of the Century, for me, a marvellous hit,” he told Sky Sports.
While van Persie left managers, players and supporters in awe with his performances on the field, McNeill has been tearing up a similar tree for years and if he can settle into the right system at Stevenage, he could soon show supporters why he’s the second coming of van Persie.
After all, such ruthless finishing doesn’t come lightly.
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