One major problem at Manchester United in recent times has been the inability to offload players who are surplus to requirements, with the long-serving Phil Jones the most obvious example of a figure who has arguably outstayed his welcome.
By contrast, there have also seemingly been occasions where the Red Devils have hastily moved players on, only to see that decision blow up in their face, with promising youngster Angel Gomes one such talent who has thrived since exiting Old Trafford.
The diminutive playmaker – who was part of England’s U17 World Cup-winning squad under Steve Cooper in 2017 – had been earmarked for big things at United after making his first-team debut at the tail end of the 2016/17 campaign, with the then-16-year-old replacing Wayne Rooney late on at home to Crystal Palace.
Despite that early bow under Jose Mourinho, the 5 foot 6 starlet was unable to force his way into the senior setup on a consistent basis, going on to make just ten appearances for the club over the next three years.
Lauded as an “unbelievable” talent by former youth coach Nicky Butt, the London-born sensation particularly fell by the wayside during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge, with the Norwegian said to have taken a ‘dim view‘ of the youngster’s failure to agree to a new contract.
That “dispute” – as worded by Butt – ultimately ended with Gomes moving on when his deal expired in summer 2020, having only made six appearances under Solskjaer during the 2019/20 campaign.
Having had concerns over his ability to earn a regular place in the team at the Theatre of Dreams, the then-teenager took the decision to join Ligue 1 side Lille on a free transfer, having since proven his former employers wrong for allowing him to depart.
After an impressive season on loan at Primeira Liga outfit Boavista in 2020/21, in which he provided 12 goals and assists in 32 games in all competitions, the eye-catching ace subsequently returned to his parent club the following year, forcing his way into the first-team reckoning at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
After recording three goals and two assists in 30 games last season, the Englishman has truly “exploded” this term according to journalist Andres Onrubia Ramos, who added that Gomes has proven himself as a player who “makes a difference” in the final third.
This breakthrough campaign has seen the 22-year-old score three goals and provided three assists in 24 games to date, ensuring that he ranks in the top 15% among his positional peers in Europe’s five main leagues for assists.
It is the quality of the £12k-per-week youngster’s goal contributions which have particularly caught the eye, however, having netted a stunning long-range strike against Pau last month before following that up with a “filthy backheel assist” against Rennes earlier this week, as per writer Zach Lowy.
That remarkable rise in recent months has ensured that Gomes is now valued at around £13m according to CIES Football Observatory, albeit with that figure only set to increase should his impactful displays continue.
With Erik ten Hag‘s side currently lacking a playmaking alternative to Bruno Fernandes, it may well be a source of frustration for United to see their former creative asset blossoming in France.