Nicky Butt’s Youth Revolution

Whenever there exists a big institution in any field of life, it is associated with something. It has its own identity, its own uniqueness. Being a part of that institution means something, it holds some value in someone’s life, in someone’s heart. In football, it’s no different. Every club has its own identity, their own traditions. That’s what makes playing for a club special, maybe that’s what makes fans fall in love with a club. 

Ajax and Barcelona are known for their youth development and brand of football, Borussia Dortmund’s loud and spectacular atmosphere at the stadium is revered all over the world, Athletic Bilbao pride themselves in only using Basque origin players to give a few examples. Almost every club in this world has their own identity. Manchester United are no different. Known for their ability for producing some of the finest footballers in English and world football, their youth academy is widely considered as one of the best in the world. Their continued trust in giving youth a chance hasn’t gone unnoticed either with the club having named an academy player in their matchday squad for more than 81 years. 

Although, United’s academy went through a bad phase in the last decade. Having won the FA youth cup 10 times, and priding themselves in their homegrown players making the first team, United neglected the academy for a while. When Louis van Gaal came in, the academy for underfunded and more focus was shifted towards improving the first team rather than improving the academy. At the same time, 4 miles away from Old Trafford, the ones wearing blue were improving and strengthening their academy each and every day. 

From guaranteed education till 18 to better and bigger training facilities, Manchester City were attracting talents from under Manchester United’s nose and United were doing nothing about it. They thought their reputation was enough to attract these players – it wasn’t. The most talented 11,12, 13 year olds were all choosing to go to blue half rather than the red. Even United’s ex players such as Robin van Persie and Phil Neville chose to put their sons in Manchester City’s academy. Manchester United were not the best academy in the city anymore, let alone the country and this was emphasised by the 9-0 loss that Manchester United’s u14s suffered at the hands of their neighbours in 2015. 

That was until Nicky Butt came in as the head of academy in 2016 and the powers at the top decided to invest in the academy once again. These figures aren’t revealed but the chatter around the training complex in Manchester suggests that the investment in the academy has skyrocketed since. United’s recent recruitments do nothing but confirm that. Hannibal Mejbri, touted as one of France’s biggest prospects, was bought in from AS Monaco for 10m pounds. Charlie McNeil, who scored over 600 goals at the u16s level, was poached from the rivals Manchester City. Marc Jurado ditched the world famous La Masia to join Manchester United, same with Alvaro Fernandez and Alejandro Garnaco who came in from Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively. 

 

 

(VALENCIA, SPAIN – DECEMBER 12: Manager Nicky Butt of Manchester United U19s watches from the touchline during the UEFA Youth League match between Valencia U19s and Manchester United U19s at Paterna Training Centre on December 12, 2018 in Valencia, Spain.)

Even though they were announced by the club like a first team signing, the general consensus is that Facundo Pellstri and Amad Diallo would first be training with the reserves instead of the first team. Large sums of money to buy these guys as well, something which again points at how much the investment at the youth level has increased since practically being ignored at one point in the last decade. 

Large part of the credit goes to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The United boss may always find himself under the microscope whenever the first team plays bad and his reign as the first team manager has been a roller coaster ride, but one thing that the Norwegian has changed since coming in is the focus put on the academy. In 2019, the Manchester United backroom staff went through a complete restructuring with Nicky Butt being made head of first team development and Nick Cox replacing him as the head of the academy. Butt reports directly to Solskjaer about which players are ready to step up into the first team and also oversees their transition. 

This has already benefited two players – Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams, who have gone through seemingly flawless transitions into the first team. James Garner, Tahith Chong and Teden Mengi have all been knocking on the doors of first team football as well. Marcus Rashford is already one of England’s best players, Dean Henderson has impressed whilst being on loan at Sheffield United and Axel Tuanzebe, who has captained the side at every level (including the first team) has shown that he can be a reliable option at the back. United have a lot of homegrown talent representing the first team and that’s a testament to Solskjaer’s CV of trusting youth time and again. 

 

 

(MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 10: Nicky Butt, Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Coach Michael Carrick of Manchester United watch from the touchline during the U18 Premier League match between Manchester United U18s and Sunderland U18s at Aon Training Complex on August 10, 2019 in Manchester, England.)

Nicky Butt has also been a large influence on the academy since coming back to the club in 2016 and spearheading the academy overhaul. Having been part of the famous Class of 92 and also coaching the reserve side in 2012 and a short interim spell in 2016 due to reshuffling of the staff, the former Manchester United midfielder knows what it takes to transition an academy prospect into a first team regular. Butt was quick to install a transfer strategy and a clear plan for the academy in terms of recruitment, which is still being used to this day. An extensive scouting network and cash influx helped with the Red Devils signing players from all across England and Europe. 

“You can judge me and the people who develop for the first team in hopefully two or three years when we’re challenging for titles. If you’re challenging for titles and getting players in the first team, that’s when you know you’re doing an unbelievable job.”

-Nicky Butt, February 2020.

Manchester United have signed 19 players between the ages of 15 and 18 since 2019. Many of them leaving a few of Europe’s best academies while others snubbing United’s main rivals and joining the red devils. 

“I have made the decision to leave this great club – I wanted to thank all my teammates, and the coaching staff at Real Madrid for making me a better person and footballer,”

-Alvaro Fernandez on leaving Real Madrid. 

All the 19 players weren’t cheap. Marc Jurado cost 400,000 pounds from Barcelona. Charlie McNeil cost 600,000 pounds from Manchester City. Logan Pye and Joe Hugill cost a combined 300,000 pounds from Sunderland. Wily Kambwala, the latest recruit from France, cost upwards of 3m pounds and Hannibal Mejbri was brought in for approximately 8m pounds to be made as the poster boy of the academy. Pellestri and Diallo who were both brought in at a combined cost of roughly 40m pounds. 

Since 2019, Manchester United have spent large sums of money on securing the signatures of some of the finest prospects in Europe. This is a testament to the scouting and recruitment strategy mapped out by Nicky Butt and how much Solskjaer is trusting the youth academy of this club. Hardballing negotiations and the supposedly smaller clubs refusing to be bullied by the financial muscle of the bigger clubs has meant that Solskjaer may turn to youth prospects sooner rather than later. 

Let’s have a look at the u23s and u18s academy players who we might be seeing play for the first team in the near future.

Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have followed in the footsteps of Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe in establishing themselves as first team regulars. Tahith Chong and James Garner have made a few first team appearances but have been loaned out to Werder Bremen and Watford respectively this season to gather more first team experience. And Even though these are early stages of the season, both have been excelling whilst on loan. 

Looking at the u23s led by Neil Wood, Hannibal Mejbri is the player that stands out. Still only 17 years old and Mejbri is one of the most important players for the u23s and is regarded as the next big thing by many French scouts and journalists. His signature made a lot of headlines in the last year and he might be on the verge of playing for the first team this season. 

 

 

(BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 30: The Manchester United team (Back Row L-R: Will Fish, Lukasz Bejger, Ondrej Mastny Teden Mengi, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga. Front Row L-R: Martin Svidersky, Shola Shoretire, Charlie McCann, Mark Helm, Reece Devine) ahead of the FA Youth Cup semi-final match between Manchester United U18s and Chelsea U18s at St Georges Park on October 30, 2020 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.)

Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi and Ethan Galbraith have all impressed at the u23s level as well. Laird and Mengi have already made their debuts for the first team with Laird featuring in the 2-1 loss to Astana in the Europa League last season while Mengi came on to play a little cameo against LASK last season. Brandon Williams had to change positions in order to accommodate Ethan Laird at right back and it was said that Laird would have even made his debut before Williams before suffering a horrible injury sidelining him for almost a year. Mengi has really impressed Solskjaer and there is a high possibility that we might see him play in a few cup games this season. Ethan Galbraith recently signed a new long term contract with the club and has made steady strides in his development. 

Looking further into the reserve teams, Dilon Hoogewerf is another foreign talent poached by United in the last year – this time from Ajax. Ajax were unhappy that he left but the 17 year old said United’s vision and plan for him did the trick in convincing him to move. Anthony Elanga and Noam Emeran are two 17 year old wingers who have shown promise. 16 year old Zidane Iqbal is another talented attacking midfielder who has roots in England and Pakistan. Alvaro Fernandez and Joe Hugill, who were acquired this summer have hit the ground running and are already playing for the u23s. Hugill was brought in from Sunderland and the 17 year old has already netted 4 times in 5 games. Pellestri had a promising debut and there is a lot of excitement among the Red Devils faithful about the arrival of Amad Diallo who is touted to be one of the biggest prospects coming out of Italy.  

Signings of midfielder Isak Hansen-Aaroen from Norwegian second tier club Tromso and goalkeeper Radek Vitek from Czech club Olomouc show exactly how vast United’s scouting network is. Manchester United have totally revamped their academy in the last few years and have laid a solid foundation for the first team manager to build upon. If a situation arrives for the first team manager to turn to academy, he has a vast array of promising players to choose from.

Manchester United have always held the reputation of giving youth players a chance to play in the first team but in the recent past, it has taken a bit of a hit. Young players didn’t find the Manchester United academy attractive enough and would consider their other options. The total revamp of the academy has meant that promising young players may turn to Manchester United to learn, grow and develop.

“Youth. Courage. Success” is the Manchester United motto, the Manchester United way. From the ‘Busby Babes’ to the ‘Class of 92’ and their stunning record of having at least one homegrown player in their matchday squad for 81 consecutive years is what the club is all about. This is their identity, their philosophy, something which was lost for a while. For all their other struggles, they are getting their identity, their philosophy back. Playing for the Manchester United academy has again started to mean something. 

Scout Report: Alejandro Garnacho

While the arrival of Donny van de Beek, Edinson Cavani and Amad Diallo Traore caused a considerable stir, it is Manchester United’s youth recruitment drive that has grabbed the headlines on multiple occasions this summer. With almost a dozen youth signings to boast of, the acquisition of winger Alejandro Garnacho Ferreyra from Atletico Madrid represents United’s third successive raid on the Spanish market this window following the capture of teenagers Marc Jurado from Barcelona and Alvaro Fernandez from Real Madrid. We take a look at the highly-rated Spanish winger in the latest of our wonderkid scout series.

Career History

Born in Getafe in July 2004, Alejandro Garnacho is one of Atletico Madrid’s most highly-rated prospects. He has been with Atletico since 2015, and is said to be the ‘jewel’ of the club’s academy. Described as a ‘goalscoring machine’ by Marca, from a very young age itself, Garnacho’s potential has seen him primed for the top. In 2016, whilst playing for Atletico’s Infantil B, he was Spain’s top scorer at the age of 12 – destroying opposition defences with his natural knack for finding the back of the net. In the 19/20 season, he found himself enjoying run-outs for Atletico’s U19 team despite only being 16 years old.

Playing Style

Alejandro is obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo, and even wears the same shirt number – No. 7. The comparisons do not end there either with Garnacho’s playing style and movement closely related to Cristiano Ronaldo as well. Garnacho is predominantly a right-footed winger who plays on the left wing, but is comfortable on his left foot as well, allowing him that versatility when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. While he prefers attacking from the left, he is equally adept at playing as a striker, behind the striker and on the right wing. Blessed with a flawless technique, Garnacho boasts attributes including close ball control that make it difficult for defenders to rob the ball off him. The Madrid-born teenager is technically gifted and has superb dribbling ability, making him a nightmare to defend against when he’s running at opposition’s backlines.

While he is able to use his quick feet to beat defenders and round goalkeepers with ease, the teenager also has the knack of finding himself in the right spot at the right time, always hungry to pick up the scraps in front of goal. In the penalty area he’s intuitive and clinical, preferring to shift the ball onto his right foot before calmly slotting the ball home. A real predator in front of goal, Garnacho is also adept at finding space in the penalty box, and is an instinctive poacher.

Most of Garnacho’s goals are textbook modern winger executions cutting in from either wing and blasting or placing his shot in a corner of the goal with his opposite foot. He also has a remarkable rate of dribbling around the goalkeeper and finishing when one-on-one showcasing his confidence, composure and dribbling ability. Any game watching Alejandro isn’t complete without bearing witness to some stepovers, nutmegs, drag-backs, double touches and body feints as the wonderkid loves taking on and often humiliating his defensive counterpart while also dribbling with purpose towards goal. Like his idol, he loves putting on a show. The major weaknesses one can identify in Garnacho’s game are natural for a player with such flair and attacking purpose. His defensive contributions like tracking back and positioning need work but that is to be expected from a 16-year-old winger who has all the time in the world to work on them and challenge for a first team spot. 

Transfer Saga & Settling in

Garnacho turned 16 in July 2020, which meant he was able to discuss deals with other clubs, and it had been widely reported that Atletico did everything they could to keep their star man. The Red Devils are said to have fought off Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to secure Garnacho’s signature. Moving to Old Trafford, and emulating his hero Ronaldo was said to be a deciding factor in his decision to move. Garnacho penned a five-year deal with the Premier League giants over the summer window. And all it costed United was a compensation package for his training and development.

‘Atlético de Madrid have lost a promising youngster after United’s great work in Spain, where they have already raided Madrid, Barça and Atleti,’ AS lamented. ‘Despite this loss, Atlético has always managed to retain great homegrown players who receive offers from foreign teams, who ‘take advantage’ of the few laws that protect Spanish quarries so as not to lose talents so easily.


After being officially announced by Manchester United on October 2nd, which was a Tuesday, Garacho was named in the matchday squad for the U18 side on the following Saturday itself. The attacker came off the bench on a rain-drenched afternoon at Manchester City’s training complex as United took on their neighbours in the U18 derby. It was a real ‘welcome to Manchester’ moment for the 16-year-old. Garnacho played the final 15 minutes as United chased an equaliser, having gone 2-1 down. He had one chance from a difficult wide position which he struck with power, but it was rising and went over the bar. United lost the game, but Alejandro impressed. He looked confident, cutting in from the left, and the young forward was pleased to get some action in before the break. He sent a message expressing how excited he was to sign for United and make his debut.

Alejandro Garnacho scored two goals in the last week of October for Manchester United’s U17 side. The Spanish teenager was part of an U17 side taking on Wigan in the re-formatted Premier League Cup. One of his goals included this thunderbolt of a strike from the edge of the box which left the Latics ‘keeper with no chance.United lost the game 3-2, a product of holding many eligible players back for the FA Youth Cup game. Garnacho has made two substitute appearances for the U18s so far. This was his first competitive academy start, and a two-goal return is pretty impressive. Garnacho reportedly started in a closed-door friendly in an attack consisting of Joe Hugill, Charlie McNeill and Hoogewerf against Salford last week which United won 5-2 but reports are still unconfirmed.

What next

The Spaniard certainly needs more time and experience before making a gradual transition to senior men’s football, but his prolific youth record in Spain suggests that he has all the raw materials to evolve into a top-quality striker moving forward. There is plenty of competition in the U18s, with Charlie McNeill and Joe Hugill signing this summer, and Dillon Hoogewerf, Mateo Mejia and Noam Emeran all signing in 2019. With United’s first team strikeforce packed with goals too, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic right now about the future. Given the potential of these youngsters and the opportunity and development the Red Devils seem to want to give to their academy players, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of these names don the jersey for the main team in a few years time. 

(Image credits: Garnacho’s Instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/garnacho7/)

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)