Manchester United clearly hold 18-year-old winger Anthony Elanga in high regard.
Elanga is one of the brightest talents in a new crop of United youngsters alongside the likes of Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri, and will be hoping to follow Amad Diallo into the first-team picture on a regular basis.
He is a name that United fans will hope to hear more of in the years to come, particularly if his goal against Wolves on the final day of the 2020/21 Premier League season is anything to go by...
Elanga is a winger who predominantly plays from the left. His official United profile describes him as having ‘pace to burn’ and praises his talent and ‘unpredictability’ on the ball.
Revered United journalist and author Andy Mitten also commented on his pace in a piece for The Athletic on the club’s renewed commitment to youth development. The youngster is capable of both scoring and assisting, a must for any modern wide forward, recording 11 direct goal contributions in 18 games across all age levels he played last season.
Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year
Elanga is the current holder of United’s prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, the accolade named for the club’s legendary assistant manager who was famed for developing the stars of the Busby Babes era like Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and many more.
Elanga was presented with the 2019/20 prize after excelling at Under-18 level, scoring almost a goal per game in the U18 Premier League, and starting to make the step to Under-23 level as well.
The award has previously been won by the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Wes Brown, Danny Welbeck, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
In discussing why Elanga was chosen as winner of the Jimmy Murphy prize, United head of academy Nick Cox lifted the lid on the player’s mature and professional attitude, in addition to his talent.
“There are a number of different factors that came into it when we made our decision, especially at this age group,” Cox told the club’s official website.
“Off the pitch, Anthony is extremely dedicated and always puts in the maximum effort, whether that is in his education, training or recovery work, and that is exactly what we want to see from our young players. On the pitch, he has become more consistent, regularly showing his pace, flair and finishing, while also improving his work rate.”
Elanga underlined the point about his off-field level-headedness and maturity when he told The Athletic in March 2021 that he considers himself to be 'academic' when it comes to education, with United's strong approach to school for academy players important to him.
Football is in his blood
Elanga, who was born in Sweden in April 2002, has football in his blood. His father is former Cameroon international Joseph Elanga, who was part of the Indomitable Lions’ squad at the 1998 World Cup and later went on to settle in Malmo, where his son was born.
Joseph’s first spell in Europe was in Greece, moving on to Malmo in 2000, where he stayed for five years and was briefly a teammate to a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A spell in Denmark with Brondby followed, before returning to Sweden for a second shorter spell with Malmo in 2010.
Anthony’s mother was also a footballer in Cameroon and the teenager has represented Sweden at youth international level, but also remains eligible for Cameroon.
Strong 2020/21 season
Having split last season between Under-18 and Under-23 level, Elanga was permanently promoted to the older age group ahead of the 2020/21 campaign and has enjoyed an excellent year.
Elanga has operated both as a left winger and centre-forward in Premier League 2 games, scoring six times in 12 games until mid-January. By that stage the youngster was starting to train more regularly with the first-team and hasn’t actually played an Under-23 game for over 10 weeks.
In the first half of the season, Elanga showed his quality against senior sides in the EFL Trophy, scoring and assisting in a 6-0 thrashing of Salford City, starting a 0- 0 draw against Rochdale that United won on penalties, and scoring in a narrow defeat against Accrington Stanley.
In March 2021, Elanga signed a new long-term contract with United to commit his future to the club for the coming years. It highlights both the club's faith in him as someone with the potential to command a first-team place, as well as his belief there is a real path for him to make that step up.
First Premier League goal
On the final day of the 2020/21 season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shook things up. Mindful of the Europa League final against Villarreal four days later, he picked for a very youthful and inexperienced team to take on Wolves - led by Elanga.
Inevitably, the youngster seized his chance, opening the scoring after 13 minutes to hand United the lead. The first of many? Quite possibly...