Marcus Rashford. Mason Greenwood. And now Joe Hugill? Could the latter be the latest hotshot forward to progress from the Manchester United youth ranks to the first team?
Hugill put many outside Old Trafford on notice by scoring four goals as United’s Under-23 team won 6-3 at bitter rivals Liverpool on January 30.
On February 1 too, first-team manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke positively about the 17-year-old striker. So who is he? Sportsmail provides a lowdown on the talented striker.
Joe Hugill (centre right) has impressed since joining Manchester United’s academy this season
The striker scored four goals as the Red Devils’ Under 23s won 6-3 at Liverpool on January 30
WHO IS HE?
Born on October 19, 2003; Hugill is only 17 but already making a big impact at age-group level.
The striker joined United last summer in a £300,000 believed deal from boyhood club Sunderland having shone regularly for the Black Cats.
The teen has been at United less than a year but has made a big impression in the age groups
IS HE HIGHLY-RATED?
Without doubt. His departure from the Stadium of Light disappointed many Sunderland supporters. There is nothing more pleasing for fans than to see ‘one of their own’ rise through the ranks but sadly it wasn’t to be for the club.
Their pain was United’s gain though, with the Red Devils fending off competition for his signature. Arsenal, Tottenham, Wolves and Leeds were all interested in the then-16-year-old as well as an unnamed Bundesliga club but he chose the Theatre of Dreams instead.
He was playing for Sunderland’s academy up until last summer before United swooped in
WHERE DOES HE PLAY?
Up front as the main man in attack and his goalscoring ability has been emphasised by his impact at United this season. His four strikes against Liverpool took the striker’s tally to 14 goals overall this season, having scored eight times for the U23s and a further six for the U18s. He’s added to his numbers since, scoring once in a 6-4 win over Blackburn Rovers for the Under 23s on Friday night.
The teenager’s stats are even more impressive when you consider he has achieved the feat of 15 goals in just 18 games, only 11 of which have been as a starter.
The 17-year-old now has 15 goals in 18 games for United across U18 and U23 level this season
He added to his tally on Friday night by scoring in the Red Devils’ U23s 6-4 win over Blackburn
WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS?
Apart from his goalscoring instinct (see the section above), Hugill possesses a wonderful touch which allows him to bring others into play while enabling him to manipulate the ball away from the grasp of opposition defenders.
From a physical standpoint too he has the attributes to cope with the rigours of professional English football. Despite being 17, he stands at 6ft 2in and his frame has been a key reason as to why he has jumped up in age levels to the United U23s this season. And with Hugill still physically developing he’ll be able to impose himself even more on backlines in years to come.
Standing at 6ft 2in the 17-year-old holds the ball up well already and has an impressive touch
HARRY KANE COMPARISONS
It’s ridiculously early days for Hugill but his style has reportedly been likened to Tottenham talisman and England captain Harry Kane, which is some comparison.
Obviously at different stages of their career, Hugill is similar to Kane in that neither boast blistering pace but can score emphatically with either foot.
Last season, Hugill scored a stunning lob on the run against West Ham while playing for Sunderland’s academy. On the move from a long punt upfield, the teen capitalised on a defender’s mistake to lob the stranded goalkeeper with the outside of his left foot while falling away.
And on his United U18s debut against Blackburn U18s this campaign in September he demonstrated his quality with his right foot. He scored both goals in a 2-1 win that day – the first a 20-yard thunderbolt that crashed off the inside of the far post, while the second was a first-time shot curled into the top corner while running through on goal.
Hugill’s style has been compared to Tottenham’s talisman and England captain Harry Kane
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT HIM?
Hugill’s goalscoring prowess was in full effect on January 30 with his quadruple against Liverpool U23s. All eyes were on Amad Diallo before kick-off, who joined in a £37million transfer from Atalanta last month, but it was Hugill who stole the plaudits and caught Solskjaer’s eye.
Asked about whether Diallo would get some first-team action soon, the Norwegian replied on February 1: ‘We’re gonna give him the time to settle in.
‘If we go from that game [vs Liverpool], I’d pick Joe Hugill.
‘Four goals by Hugill, he’s a top striker as well, we’re looking forward to seeing his development.
‘Amad gets a good start and why Joe didn’t take the penalty himself to get five goals I’m going to ask him.’
Red Devils manager Solskjaer was pleased with what he saw from Hugill on Saturday afternoon
HUGILL COULD FELLOW A WELL-TRODDEN PATH
United are proud of their tradition of giving talent from the youth ranks a chance in the first team and Hugill wouldn’t be the first if that was the case.
The Busby Babes and Class of 92 are of course great examples in the Red Devils’ history but more recently the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have propelled themselves from young prospects into regular first-team members. Meanwhile the likes of Axel Tuanzebe, Tahith Chong and Brandon Williams have also been given opportunities by Solskjaer.
During their 9-0 drubbing of Southampton on February 2, which equalled a Premier League record for the biggest win, Rashford and Greenwood both started – with the former scoring courtesy of the latter’s assist. That took Rashford’s United career tally to 83, placing him one above club legend Eric Cantona. Meanwhile, Greenwood has 21 goals in 79 games for the club already aged just 19 and often playing out wide.
Who knows one day United’s frontline could see Hugill spearhead their attack with Rashford and Greenwood either side.
Marcus Rashford (left) and Mason Greenwood are two academy graduates in the first team
Hugill will be hoping he can follow in their footsteps in the not too distant future at Old Trafford