Before it became all about Mason Greenwood, the homegrown youngster everyone at Manchester United was excited about was Angel Gomes.
The teenager has been at the club since the age of six; he wrote himself into the history books when he became the youngest player since Duncan Edwards to play for the first team, aged just 16, against Crystal Palace back in May 2017. But unless there can be progress in the coming weeks over a new contract his time at the club could already be coming to an end.
Gomes signed his first professional deal back in 2017 but it expires at the end of June. A new deal has been on the table since the start of the season and the offer has even improved in an attempt to sway Gomes. The situation, however, is at a stalemate with the two parties yet to agree terms.
Situations can change quickly and it’s possible the midfielder will still be at Old Trafford next season, but it’s a transfer saga that’s been ticking along in the background during the entire campaign.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants the teenager to stay but Gomes and his representatives have so far declined the terms offered.
Fellow youngster Tahith Chong was in a similar situation but finally put pen to paper on a new deal - to keep him at the club until 2022 - in March. At one stage it looked certain that the Dutchman would leave. That resolution gave the club renewed optimism that Gomes would do the same, but the clock is ticking and the midfielder now has a big decision to make.
Chelsea were one of a number of clubs monitoring Gomes’ situation but they have reservations over a transfer. United will not be eligible for a transfer fee if Gomes leaves but they will be entitled to a compensation package.
That fee, along with the fact he would block the pathway of several players at the club who have long-term deals, means there’s doubt over a move to Stamford Bridge.
The positive for Gomes if he stays at Old Trafford is that he’ll be playing under a manager who is keen to promote youth.
When Solskjaer was given the job as interim manager, after Jose Mourinho was sacked in December 2018, he included the teenager in his first matchday squad - a statement of intent from the Norwegian on his philosophy and one he has stuck with.
Of the 36 players to have featured for United this season, 17 (47 per cent) are homegrown and Solskjaer has handed out 10 debuts to academy graduates since he took charge.
Gomes has struggled for minutes this season for the first team, making just six appearances despite United’s issues in midfield with injuries, but the manager is keen to see commitment. Hence, the England Under-20 international has found game time limited during negotiations.
Despite his unsure future, however, he still has the backing of Old Trafford staff, who believe he has the ability to be a big success.
“I've still got massive hopes for him,” head of first-team development Nicky Butt told the Manchester Evening News back in February.
“He's got a contract dispute at the minute, which all players have, and I don't get involved in that. That's what he does with his agent and the club. That's personal.
“The boy trains every day and works hard. His work ethic, the way he approaches training every day, and the way he approaches games whether he's playing for the reserve team, U19s, first team, is spot on. His talent is unbelievable. Angel has to get the right niche at the right time. If it all comes together then we've got one hell of a player on our hands.”
That’s the key for Gomes: the right time.
For Scott McTominay, his time came under Mourinho when many didn’t expect it. Should Gomes decide to sign the contract that’s currently on the table, he will be given a chance by Solskjaer at some point during the next campaign – whenever that may be following the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.
United don’t want to let Gomes go but it’s the teenager who holds all the cards at the moment with just seven weeks left of his contract. The club will have to wait to see if they can help the starlet flourish at Old Trafford or if it “all comes together” for him at another club.