Anthony Elanga making dreams come true at Old Trafford

Written by Ian Park
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12 months ago, Anthony Elanga was relatively unknown. He’d made his first-team debut in a pre-season fixture, and been an unused substitute in both Europa League quarter-final matches against Granada, before being handed his competitive debut in the Premier League.

Fast forward to this season, and the 19-year-old has reached double figures for Premier League appearances, and featured three times in United’s Champions League campaign – grabbing what should have been a vital goal in their first round of 16 tie with Atlético Madrid. They, of course, lost the return fixture and were dumped out before the quarter-finals.

While the dreams for a top four finish could still be on the cards, especially for those choosing English Premier League odds from Betfair - there’s no denying that the emergence of Elanga has been a positive on what has been a troubled season for the red side of Manchester.

Interestingly, prior to Rangnick arriving as interim manager on December 3rd 2021, Elanga hadn’t made the squad for both Premier League and Champions League campaigns – only being consigned to third round appearances in both the FA Cup and EFL Cup, to Middlesbrough and West Ham United, respectively. It’s believed the youngster had requested a loan move in the January window, which was later blocked by the club – and Rangnick saw potential in the striker very quickly. A decision that has proved fruitful so far.

After last month’s Champions League draw at the Wanda Metropolitano, the German manager recalled:

“In the first training session, the night before the Crystal Palace game, he was the player with the best training performance in that session.”

He then continued:

“Anthony, in all the games he has played so far, just shows that he's playing with all the passion and all the fun and joy.”

Of course, it had been predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that handed the Sweden Under-21 front man an opportunity – promoting him to the first team ahead of the current campaign. However, credit has to be given to Rangnick for the way he was immediately impressed by Elanga, and had considered starting him for the aforementioned Premier League match against Palace. Elanga replaced Marcus Rashford, a minute before the Red Devils scored the deciding goal to put themselves amongst the Premier League prediction.

And it has been his fellow forward, Rashford, who has come under much criticism this season. It was he, who Elanga replaced in the Champions League last-16 match – which proved to be another inspired substitution from Rangnick. It took just five minutes for the teenager to score what should have been a vital goal. In the post-match analysis, the duo were both subject of discussion – with the punditry team praising Elanga’s work-ethic and honesty. Comments that have been echoed by his manager, teammates and media.

The plaudits should rightly be with the 19-year-old – as he becomes United’s youngest goalscorer in the Champions League knockout stages, overtaking the record held by Rashford in 2019. It proved to be a landmark goal – the Red Devils’ 500th in the competition.

Reflecting on making another Champions League appearance – and of course, scoring his first goal in the competition – Elanga said:

“I have dreamt of moments like this, scoring in the Champions League against top European teams like Atletico Madrid.”

United are renowned for their production of academy players, and Elanga is just the latest to be given his time to shine. Given all the doom and gloom surrounding the club this season, there’s no doubt, his performances have been a real highlight – and he’ll hoping to continue fulfilling those dreams.

Read 1880 times Last modified on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 11:19
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Ian Park

Ian Park

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