Three days on from his FA Cup debut away to Yeovil Town, Angel Gomes was back in action for Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night.
With Jose Mourinho watching on from the stands, the 17-year-old was given a second successive start for the club’s under-23s and while Ricky Sbragia’s side went down to a 3-1 defeat to Tottenham which sent them to the bottom of Premier League 2 in their first of three fixtures at the Theatre of Dreams this season, it was another important step forward in Gomes’ development.
Gomes initially burst onto the scene when replacing Wayne Rooney in the dying moments of United’s season-ending 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace last May, becoming the club’s youngest first-team player since Duncan Edwards at the age of 16 years and 263 days.
On Friday, he made his second senior appearance, replacing Marcus Rashford two minutes from the end of the 4-0 victory at Yeovil and coming within inches of making an immediate impact on the scoresheet following a wonderful run through the left channel.
However, on Monday, he was back to his main line of work, continuing his growth through the United system by turning out for the under-23s against a lively Spurs outfit.
Having been handed the captain’s armband at under-18 level, his performances in the younger age group have demanded an early promotion up to the reserve grade and, at Old Trafford, he showed a great amount of maturity despite United’s slapdash performance on the whole.
Gomes started in his favoured No.10 role just behind lone striker Josh Bohui, and he was very impressive during a tight first half. Despite not being overly involved in the meat of the action, he showed great instincts throughout and was always looking to direct operations in among his older, more experienced team-mates.
When he did get on the ball, he was keen to move it quickly, not once looking to take the extra touch that might be liable to get him into trouble. He was always on the move too, forever probing at empty spaces in between Spurs’ defensive lines. Without dominating, he was still able to show how his wonderful footballing brain was working overtime.
Gomes also provided arguably United’s brightest moment of the first half, curling in a delicious free-kick from close to the bye-line on the left wing which had the Spurs keeper back-pedalling in a desperate bid to tip the ball away from the far top corner.
It was an encouraging opening 45 minutes in particular for the youngster but after the break United managed to let a lead slip through some fairly calamitous defending, with Joel Pereira, who had earlier saved a penalty, conceding one goal when trying to be too clever on the ball and being tackled by Spurs forward Joe Roles.
However, it was a positive display on the whole for Gomes as he comes to terms with life at a more demanding level. After another fairytale evening with the first team on Friday, this was just the sort of night he needed to add to his portfolio.
Another important step has been taken on the road to Manchester United stardom.