Manchester United have named teenage forward Anthony Elanga in their travelling squad for this week’s Champions League group stage opener against Young Boys.
Elanga broke into the first-team squad in the second half of last season and made two appearances, scoring once, in the Premier League towards the very end of the campaign. He kept that place during pre-season and scored twice in friendlies in July.
The 19-year-old Swede, whose father Joseph played at the 1998 World Cup for Cameroon, was not among the young talents that United decided to send out on loan during the summer transfer window and opportunities like this coming his way will have been part of the thinking.
In only two first-team appearances, Elanga has made more of an impact for United than Tahith Chong, currently on loan at Birmingham, in 16. He has merited the opportunity to remain in Manchester for the next few months at least, rather than seek playing time at a lower level.
Despite no place in the first-team squad on a matchday so far this season, Elanga also hasn’t dropped back down to play at Under-23 level – in contrast, the younger Shola Shoretire has.
The United coaching staff clearly see Elanga as a permanent member of the first-team setup and being among the 22 players heading to Switzerland underlines that.
There are no guarantees that Elanga will get on the pitch against Young Boys, but the likelihood that United will be comfortable winners and the less intense, more technical nature of European football certainly offers a strong possibility for a first appearance of the season.
Although competition is strong, the enormous demands of last season proved more than ever that modern football is a squad game. Edinson Cavani is once more absent for this trip, while Marcus Rashford and Amad Diallo remain sidelined, meaning that now is the time for Elanga to get some minutes under his belt. The EFL Cup is also coming up soon, which will present more chances.
22-player Man Utd squad vs Young Boys in Champions League
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Tom Heaton, Matej Kovar
Defenders: Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Midfielders: Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek
Forwards: Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo