Scout Report: Charlie McNeill

It’s very rare that a youth level player comes with as much fanfare and hype as Charlie Mcneill did in the 2020 summer transfer window. The striker was part of Manchester United’s youth acquisition spree over the summer and made the switch from rivals Manchester City after turning heads all over Europe with some exceptional displays at many youth brackets for the Citizens. We uncover the content beyond the hype to figure out what the ‘Next Sergio Aguero’ – as he was called during his time at City – is all about.

Career History

Charlie was born on September 9, 2003 which means he celebrated his 17th birthday when his United career began last month. Unknown to many, McNeill actually began his career at United, working his way up through the ranks alongside the likes of Mason Greenwood. But he opted to make the controversial switch to cross-town rivals Manchester City in 2013 for around £12,000 as he looked to take his career to the next stage. Departing United to join City would have been hard enough for the fans in red to take, but to make matters worse, McNeill is actually a United fan himself. All said and done though, it’s safe to say the switch has worked out reasonably well for him so far.

A youngster’s goalscoring record at youth level doesn’t tell the complete story. But when a player scores over 600 goals across different age groups, then it’s clear just how special a talent he is. Yes, you read that correctly! Charlie has scored about 600 goals in his career already. To give you an idea, McNeill netted 110 goals and contributed 38 assists in just 72 matches during his time playing City’s Under-15s side. That’s just the 148 goal contributions in 72 matches. He has been scoring at a similar rate throughout his youth career. 

The teenager has developed into a pretty complete striker, while his performances have also seen him called up to the England Under-16s squad a number of times already. International recognition with England has led to 4 appearances so far for the U16s. His one goal for the Young Lions came in a 5-1 win over Moldova at the Aegean Cup last year. The goals come with trophies too making Charlie a Runner-up in the FA Youth Cup (18/19) and two-time winner of the U18 Premier League Cup (18/19 and 19/20). From his Instagram account, it’s easy to capture many other achievements of Charlie. He stands at the forefront of a group photo after City won the Premier League Under-15 International Tournament, held at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, when they beat Arsenal 1-0 in the final. There’s also a picture of McNeill holding two trophies with a medal round his neck at the equivalent under-14 tournament a year earlier.


It’s an interesting narrative that McNeill was actually the player tipped to step up and replace City’s departing Jadon Sancho – whom United chased to a dead end this summer – in 2017. Goal.com reported in an article titled, ‘Brahim and Sancho gone – but Man City have other teenage sensations’: “McNeill is just 14 but has been making a name for himself in the City academy for the past few years. Those familiar with the City youth set-up believe he is one of the best prospects of any age group and is definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming years.”

Playing Style

The variety of the goals McNeill has scored in U16 and U17 games is the most striking aspect. There are true highlights reel hits from 30 or 40 yards like this similar to those Paul Scholes used to produce while McNeill also enjoys cutting inside and bending shots across the keeper reminiscent of Wayne Rooney like this, and there are also confident traps, exquisite chips and casual bangers in the vein of Eric Cantona like these. He also appears to be an assured penalty taker with a cheeky Panenka slipped in for good measure at times. McNeill’s assist record from the U15s also suggests he’s more than happy to pass or cross when team-mates are present in better positions.

One of his U16 goals against Manchester United saw him pick up the ball wide on the left, cut inside and unleash a beautifully curled effort into the top right corner. A natural born finisher, McNeill knows where the goal is without needing to look up. Instead he ruthlessly fires home armed with two-footedness, technical prowess and a natural eye for goal most strikers crave for. Sure, he’s clinical in and around the box, but he’s also more than capable of the spectacular. Goals from the halfway line are made to seem almost easy by McNeill having scored a couple from that range at the youth level. He is a complete attacker who is more than capable of linking attacks and darting into space, while many comparisons have also been made with Wayne Rooney in regards to the way he drops deep to collect the ball at times.


(Photo by Manchester City FC/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

But perhaps what is one of his most promising traits is his mental strength and desire to never be completely satisfied with what he already has. As a result, it won’t come as much of a surprise to see the Times report that McNeill idolises Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski. His insane goal tally speaks of a player who never rests on his laurels. Always searching for more and looking at ways to improve, McNeill has the talent with the ball at his feet – but also the mentality to become a top footballer.

Transfer saga & settling in

After six years with the club, McNeill opted not to sign a new deal with City as he was said to be growing frustrated with his lack of opportunities at a higher level. He found games hard to come by in the U18s, managing just 8 appearances. In 18/19, he made just 3 substitute appearances in the U18 Premier League and that remained the case in 19/20 with just 4 substitute outings and 1 start before the season was curtailed because of the pandemic. McNeill did prove a point by scoring his first goal for the U18s in a 2-1 win over Blackburn back in February, but it was clear his time for the Sky Blues was coming to an end. The Manchester Evening News reported that McNeill saw a clearer pathway to the first team with United than at City. Italian giants Juventus and Red Bull Leipzig were also heavily linked to McNeill. But for the childhood United fan in Mcneill a chance to get back to his club was too good to turn down. With the Red Devils having built up a famous reputation with regards to first team opportunities for academy graduates and overseeing a youth revamp under Nicky Butt, the choice was obvious. McNeill returned to the United academy for an initial fee of £750,000 that could rise to £1.35million after he rejected the offer of a new contract at City in the summer. United sources say McNeill would represent an ‘absolute bargain’ even if he costs the full amount as he would have to play in a significant amount of first-team games and record noteworthy achievements to trigger the clauses. After a highly successful 6 years at City, Mcneill made the switch in September.

In true Charlie Mcneill fashion, the striker needed no time to start doing what he does best for the Red devils. His first appearance came in a pre-season friendly earlier this month against West Brom where the striker finished off a cool chance to get on the scoresheet. Last weekend, Charlie made his first official start for the U18 side against Derby U18 and – surprise, surprise! – smashed 2 goals in succession in an impressive 4-0 win. A timely dribble latching onto a through ball followed by a far-post finish and a poacher’s first time shot from a cut-back cross were enough to excite United fans about what’s to come. “First 2 of 600 goals for us” – an enthusiastic fan on social media chimed.

What next

McNeill is expected to play with the United’s U18s side for a while rather than the Under-23s, partially due to the long-term injury suffered by D’Mani Mellor. However, should he settle quickly and continue his progression, he could soon make the step up. If he keeps scoring at the rate he does, a U23 call-up is possible in the near future. Having just turned 17, Charlie has time on his side to make a mark at both levels before eyeing a main team debut. With Edinson Cavani and Ighalo, the Red devils are clearly looking at stop-gap solutions for the striker role to compete with Martial. Mcneill made the switch back to his boyhood club for a reason and if he keeps doing what he does he might just get the chance to impress the Old Trafford faithful sooner than later. 

(Image & Video Credits: Getty images & Charlie McNeill’s official Instagram account)

Scout report: Marc Jurado

Manchester United haven’t been very active in the business of wonderkids over the past two decades, which other top teams like Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund seem to thrive on – either in terms of performance or profitability, or both. A drastic change in United’s academy project has seen Nicky Butt lead the Devils into a new era of focus on academy youngsters and buying high potential players for the same. Coupled with manager Ole gunnar Solskjaer’s trust in youth and the academy setup, this summer has already seen the club renew contracts for Harvey Neville, Tahith Chong, Greenwood, Brandon Williams, James Garner, Ethan Laird, and Dylan Levitt while recruiting fresh talent in the forms of Isak Hansen-Aarøen from Tromso, Alvaro Rodrigues from Real Madrid’s academy, Radek Vitek from Olomouc, Joe Hugill from Sunderland and Marc Jurado from Barcelona’s famed La Masia.

Marc Jurado is only the second player in United’s history to have been signed from FC Barcelona’s youth academy and the first ended up being a decent player. Gerard Pique could not make it at the club but went on to become one of the world’s top defenders. Marc Jurado was born the same year Pique arrived at United in 2004. Now 16 years old, he arrives at Old Trafford aiming to make a bigger mark than his predecessor.  

Career History:

Jurado was born in Sabadell, a town 18 miles from Barcelona, on April 13, 2004,. He played for his local club, CF Can Rull, from the age of four to seven before impressing enough to be picked up by FC Barcelona’s La Masia academy. He has been playing for the youth team for the past nine years. In his second season for Barcelona, he recorded the fastest goal for the FCB Benjamin C side (Under-10s) as he stole the ball straight from kick-off, dribbled past two UD Viladecans defenders before coolly slotting past the keeper to score within five seconds. This is also the record for the fastest goal at any youth level at Barcelona. His crowning moment for FCB Infantil A (Under-12s) came as he scored in a 2-0 win against fierce rivals Real Madrid in the Mediterranean International Cup 2016 tournament. He has been a prominent figure in Barcelona’s Cadet A (Under-16) side and was due to be promoted to the Juvenil B (Under-17) for the 20/21 campaign.

Playing Style:
When it comes to playing style, Jurado is your quintessential modern right-back, bombing forward with speed and skill to overlap and support the attack. Most consistently associated with jersey #2, the first noticeable aspect of Jurado is his immense speed and acceleration which he uses aggressively to dribble past players and take up good attacking positions on the right side of the pitch. He has a huge reputation as a capable attacker having once scored 6 goals in a season for FCB Cadete B. Technically strong, Jurado fits the usual La Masia graduate pattern of being very adept at passing, link-up play and ball control while he is no slacker in his defensive duties utilizing intense pace and stamina to get back in position and mark wingers. Jurado loves playing 1-2s to burst past opposition often linking up with the right sided attacker or central midfielder for a classic give-and-go. Armed with a very capable left foot, Jurado also has a penchant to cut inside and release the opposite fullback or dribble in central areas himself towards the opposition box which explains the occasional goal he scores and offers a more unpredictable dynamic to his attacking play. A few of his goals have come via headers and volleys from corners indicating his value as a set-piece threat. He has been deployed mostly as a right back but has also been used as a right winger on some occasions to utilize his attacking traits.

Transfer Saga:
Barcelona had no intention of letting Jurado go as they secured Ansu Fati, Ilaix Moriba, Pablo Paez and Ilias before offering a lucrative 3-year contract, worth up to €300,000 per year, to Jurado to convince him to stay as well. They viewed Jurado as a key part of their promising generation of youngsters. But Jurado was certain he wanted to leave for better opportunities which probably says a lot about the current condition of the Blaugrana in terms of giving chances to academy graduates in the main squad. They have lost a few youngsters in recent years who have opted to try their luck abroad instead. It also says a lot about the great recent work Nicky Butt and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been doing in terms of youth promotion. Reports first emerged in April 2020 suggesting United had contacted Barcelona regarding Jurado and their pursuit worked soon after as they received the confirmation of Jurado soon after.  

“It is never easy to leave the team that has given you everything,” Jurado wrote on his official Instagram account to confirm his departure. “FC Barcelona has been my second home, my second family, where I have trained as a player but also as a person. Today I have to say goodbye but not before thanking each of the people who have helped me since I started in 2011. I have been fortunate to share my passion with a fantastic generation with whom I will always be linked. We started as children who only wanted to run after the ball and I said goodbye, nine years later, being able to call them friends. Only we know the immense luck we have had with all the coaches who have trained us and helped us to continue fulfilling our dreams.”


What next?
His contract expired on June 30, 2020 with the Red devils having to pay a compensation fee of £175,000 for the youngster. Jurado shared an image of his departure gate ahead of his flight to Manchester on 27th August with a caption “A new dream is coming.”. The pacey defender was seen strolling through Manchester in a denim jacket and jeans post which he self-isolated for 14 days before joining training. Jurado has linked up with the Manchester United Under-18 side for the 20/21 season and is already off to a bright start having scored in the 2-1 friendly win against West Brom U18 earlier this month. Jurado’s path to the main team won’t be easy with Aaron Wan Bissaka (22 years old), Fosu Mensah (22 years old), Diogo Dalot (21 years old) and Ethan Laird (19 years old) seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order. But with Dalot’s long-term future up in the balance given his recent loan to AC Milan, Fosu-Mensah’s injury concerns, Laird yet to make his senior debut and manager Ole’s heavy trust in the academy, Jurado will know he has the time and opportunity to make a mark for the reserves first and then make the step up in a few years. 


(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)