As Manchester United prepare for their Europa League clash with Granada, there is one name listed among their travelling party who is less familiar than the rest of the squad.
Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Amad have been joined up front by Anthony Elanga, an 18-year-old striker who has yet to make his competitive debut for United’s senior team.
He may not make his debut in this particular fixture but there is plenty to suggest he will get an opportunity in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side before too long, with the United manager having confirmed he’ll be among the substitutes in Spain.
“Anthony will be in the squad, he’ll be on the bench,” Solskjaer said. “He has impressed when he has been in training with us.
“He was very unlucky two or three months back when he got a bad injury and he’s worked really hard to come back, because he was just due to move into the first-team squad back then.
“He’s got an X factor, some attributes, it’s not like a gift, but he’s got the acceleration, pace, speed, that’s a given for wingers and he’s got qualities I like.
“He’s a goalscoring winger, he’s confident, he likes to beat men, right foot, left foot, he’s got a great attitude. His appetite and hunger to improve and when he’s been training with us the while he’s been here now he’s not been fazed by it, he’s confident.
“He’s not just there for experience, he’s ready to play a part if he has to.”
Born in Hyllie in Sweden, Elanga comes from good footballing stock. His father Joseph was a left-back who was part of Cameroon’s squad at the 1998 World Cup in France. When the family moved to England, it didn’t take long before Elanga junior was spotted and snapped up by United’s scouts.
Speaking last year , the young man was quick to highlight the positive influence which his dad has had upon his fledgling career.
“Obviously we play in different positions but he’s actually the reason why I fell in love with football,” he said.
“He was tough – and still is. After games he’ll tell me what I’ve done well and what I can improve on, which is good. You need something like that to keep you going because you can’t just relax on one game.
“You can always get better and better. It is an inspiration to have him around.”
The advice from his dad has obviously paid off, as Elanga won United’s prestigious Jimmy Murphy Young Player Of the Year award last season.
Receiving the prize is no guarantee of a successful career, be that with United or elsewhere, but when the player is following in the footsteps of the likes of previous winners Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rashford and Greenwood, it’s no wonder that people begin to expect great things from them.
And though competition for the award was fierce, the club’s under-18 head coach Neil Ryan decided that Elanga was a deserving winner of the accolade.
“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,” he told the club’s official website .
“On the pitch, he has become more consistent, regularly showing his pace, flair and finishing, while also improving his work rate.”
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Elanga has carried his form from 2019/20 into the current campaign with United’s Under-23 side, and would have featured more frequently had he not injured his collarbone in January.
The teenager has scored eight goals and set up a further three from his 16 appearances in Premier League 2 and the EFL Trophy for Neil Wood’s side this season.
He caught the eye of Gary Neville in the latter competition, when he scored and assisted a goal against Salford City, with the former United right-back comparing him to Thierry Henry.
And the description seems apt when considering Solskjaer’s high praise for Elanga ahead of the match with Granada.
Whether he makes his bow on Thursday night or not, it’s certainly reasonable to assume that Anthony Elanga could be the next player to graduate from the club’s illustrious conveyor belt of talented youngsters.