• Conor O Donoghue


To call Manchester United's use of their academy system productive would be an understatement. Manchester United are a club famed for using its own footballing resources since the days of Matt Busby. United's record started in 1937 and has gone over 4000 games.

These include players down the years from Duncan Edwards, to George Best, Marcus Rashford and the famed class of 92 with the Neville brothers, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs, etc.

Under Alex Ferguson, youth development was a huge component of the club's DNA. United despite their recent troubles after Ferguson retired and have never failed to keep the record alive.

The club undertook a Real Madrid galactico philosophy for several years but remained true to its principles by promoting youth.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nicky Butt have increased the red devil's desire to find the best young talent across the Uk and Europe like Ferguson and David Gill did in the 90s and Noughties.

United under Ole and Butt have brought in Hannibal Mjebri from Monaco, Alvaro Fernandes from Real Madrid, Willy Kwambala from Sochaux, and Amad Diallo from Atlanta, while also using local lads like Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe.

The player that United fans should keep a look on doesn't come from sunny Spain or Moss Side. He actually comes from Sunderland. His name is Joe Hugill.

Sunderland's Academy of Light programme is highly regarded around the country. The programme has produced players like Jordan Pickford, Josh Maja and Conor Hourihane. Hugill is the latest player off the conveyor belt. A hat-trick for Sunderland's Under-18 side in an FA Youth Cup tie against Shrewsbury in November and a brace against Premier League 2 leaders West Ham back in February, alerted scouts to his ability and put Premier League clubs on red alert.

The striker was turning heads around the country. Premier League clubs like Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea had all kept tabs on the teenager, but it would be Manchester United who would swoop in first to secure 16-year-old Hugill's signature for a measly £300,000.

Hugill stands at 6ft 2in at 17 years old and because of this has quickly elevated him to the u23's due to slender frame and stature. The young man is a certified goal machine and has often been compared to Harry Kane in the way he portrays himself in front of goal.

Amad Diallo made his debut for Manchester United u23's against Liverpool u23's on the 31st of December, but it would be Joe Hugill who would steal the headlines with four goals in a 6-3 win. He could have ended with five but decided to give debutant Diallo a brace on his debut.

Hugill's record as of this moment stands at six goals for the under-18s and eight goals for the u23s, which is 14 goals in 17 total appearances, of which just 10 have been started. He's also got two assists to his name, one for the under-23s and one for the under-18s.

Most players deemed lanky or tall are often labelled technically awkward and slow, for example, Andy Caroll, Christian Benteke, Peter Crouch etc. The former Sunderland prospect is blessed with a strong left foot and is adept at making runs in behind opposition defenders. He is extremely clever at timing runs of the last man's shoulder and displays finishing ability far beyond his peers despite being 17 years of age.

His ability in front of goal and physical attributes are eerily similar to Borruisa Dortmund Erling Haaland. If you look at his finishes like the ones in the 6-3 win against Liverpool, he will often finish like the Norwegian by peeling off the defender's back to create chances.

Former United trainee David Jones told MUTV after the game: "His performance was 'clinical."

Hugill could well become the latest player to make his Manchester United debut this season and has caught the eye of the Manchester United manager of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ole was asked about Hugill in his press conference for the Southampton game and said: "If we go from that game [vs Liverpool], I'd pick Joe Hugill.

"Four goals by Hugill, he's a top striker as well, we're looking forward to seeing his development.

"Amad gets a good start and why Joe didn't take the penalty himself to get five goals I'm going to ask him."

The record of Manchester United promoting youth players goes all the way back to 1937 and Hugill could very well soon be the latest player to add his name to that number, with United's record you'd be a fool to bet against it and Hugill could become a household name at Old Trafford sooner than later.