'This boy has magic in his feet' - Will Man Utd regret letting Angel Gomes leave?

Angel Gomes Manchester United 2019-20
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Unhappy with his prospects at Old Trafford, the England Under-20 star left for Lille in a bid for game time, which he has found on loan at Boavista

Having played fewer than 500 minutes of first-team football for Manchester United last season, Angel Gomes seemed little more than an afterthought at Old Trafford.

Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deployed the versatile attacker for a grand total of 19 minutes in the Premier League, and though he was granted more time in the Carabao Cup and Europa League, when the time came to negotiate a new deal, Gomes had made his mind up.

He was going to leave Old Trafford.

“You can ask Angel why he's not signed,” Solskjaer said amid reports that the player was unhappy with his lack of action. “He's not signed yet, I don't know what the talks are behind the scenes.”

United may now be regretting the fact that they did not do more to persuade him to stay, with Gomes thriving in Portugal for Boavista, having joined Lille on a free transfer.

“Angel represents one of the biggest international prospects in his position,” Lille CEO Marc Ingla championed. Clearly, the Ligue 1 outfit felt they could see something that his boyhood team, who he joined as a six-year-old, had missed.

Nevertheless, with stacked options in their own attack - as showcased in their 3-0 Europa League win over AC Milan - they felt that the option of a loan move was the optimal one for a player who was still a teenager when he arrived in France.

For Gomes, Portugal was a logical move. His father, Gil Gomes, was a promising young forward who turned out for his country’s Under-21s side. If Gil failed to live up to his potential, playing a journeyman career that saw him play for the likes of Tours, Jacksonville Cyclones, Avellino and Salford City, his son seems set to refuse such a fate.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“I gave him the ABC of football,” Gil told TSF . “From a very young age, he showed that he was a unique boy because his favourite toy was always a ball.

“And Angel managed to show that he had a path in the game by being one of the youngest to make his debut in Manchester United’s first team when Jose Mourinho was coach. That helped him a lot.”

Gomes has been one of Liga NOS' outstanding players this season, despite his Boavista side fighting the drop.

His Opta statistics show that he has three goals and two assists from his five outings - his latest goal coming on Sunday in the 3-1 defeat to Farense. 

Though these numbers are commendable, they disguise just how well he has played.

Indeed, morally he has two more assists to his credit, having been denied one against Nacional on debut then on Monday against Benfica due to minor deflections off defending players.

Although he scored outrageously from virtually the halfway line against Moreirense, it was that match against Benfica that really saw his status elevated.

He had missed Boavista’s two previous fixtures due to injury and his side were left foundering second from bottom in the 18-team table. Winless, as they approached a home fixture against the league leaders, few gave them a chance.

But rather than resign themselves to the status of whipping boys, Vasco Seabra’s side outplayed their guests under the will of the England Under-20 international.

It was not reported Barcelona target Darwin Nunez, highly-rated German striker Luca Waldschmit or veteran visiting defenders Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi who starred on the night; it was the 20-year-old Londoner who proved to be the Man of the Match.

“This boy has magic in his feet,” Portugal legend and 1987 European Cup-winning winger Paulo Futre told Record in October.

Angel Gomes GFX

He showed just how much as he wriggled out of an impossibly small space surrounded by three defenders to win a penalty after 17 minutes that he converted with the confidence of a far more seasoned player.

A second for Boavista arrived before the break, and again U17 World Cup-winner Gomes was critical. He found a pocket of space just outside the ‘D’, received a pass, paused for a beat, then played a perfect reverse ball that Alberth Elis could not help but plant into the net.

He left the field after 70 minutes, but after a month without competitive action, that was understandable.

Given the player’s attitude, head coach Seabra was unsurprised he hit the ground running.

“He's very humble, he's a kid who's really eager to learn, he's really passionate about the game and about the ball,” he explained after the match. “The ball is always a part of his body, it's always with him.

“He really wants to grow, to learn and to listen to everything that we try to transmit to him so that he can have a good understanding of the game to be able to help the team.

“What we feel is that he's humble enough to always try to give his all for the team. He's indeed a team player. The team feels that and respects him, but also pushes him to work every day.”

This determination to consistently progress is also the one that saw him depart Old Trafford in search of the game time that would allow him to develop.

It was a risk, but one that is paying off.

“He’s on the right track, he still has a lot to show,” Gil promised.

United have more pressing issues to concern them than the form of one of their former academy players, yet it seems very probable that at some point in the not too distant future they will reflect that allowing Gomes to depart so readily was just another in the series of transfer mishaps they have become all too prone to making.

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