12 months ago not many people would have even have heard the name James Wilson, a young Manchester United striker that has suddenly burst onto the scene. James Wilson had an excellent season last season for the Manchester Youth teams with his consistent eye catching performances and incredible goal scoring abilities. He is worth the MUTV subscription all on his own.
By April 2014, James Wilson had played his way into first team contention, and whatever we think about David Moyes and last season in general, when James was picked to sit on the bench against Newcastle in Manchester United’s 4-0 rout at St James Part, it was a testament to a monumental rise of a youth player working his way through the ranks at Old Trafford, but few had heard of James Wilson prior to that game. Those of us that keep a close eye on the youth teams around Old Trafford knew all too well that this young man had the potential to be a first team player sooner or later. Saying that James is just a good goalscorer would be doing a major disservice to James Wilsons talent. After watching a number of games last season and indeed the Manchester Senior Cup on Thursday evening it’s clear that this lad has so much more in his locker than scoring goals.
On Thursday night at Hyde FC’s Ewen Fields, the Manchester Senior Cup Final between the under 21’s of Manchester United and Patrick Viera’s Manchester City’s under 21’s would do battle in the mini Manchester derby. Whilst Mancunion rivalry is ever present in the senior teams it was evident that none of that rivalry is lost on the youth teams of Manchester’s United and City, in a keenly contested first half.
City took the lead in the 15th minute, a close range effort after some good wing play. City deserved their lead it has to be said. They were much more aggressive, strong in the tackle and not letting United settle. No doubt with Manuel Pelegrini watching in the crowd it was an audition for the City youngsters to show their worth and hopefully break into Manchester City’s expensively assembled team. One has to wonder though, with FFP biting hard, Pelegrini may have no choice but to put trust in some of the young players that their expensively revamped youth projects are producing.
With seconds to go in the first half and with Patrick Viera rubbing his hands at the thought of a positive half time team talk, that landscape changed. The ball broke in the edge of the centre circle in City’s half to James Wilson who lifted if over one of the City midfielders and started to run on the City goal. At pace Wilson approached the edge of the City box bobbing and weaving past City players until he passed into the City box where he decided to beat 2 more players before placing the ball past the City Keeper. It was marvellous individual effort, reminiscent of Ryan Giggs in his premium years. The half finished 1-1, but more was to come.
For all of City’s drive and determination in that first half the contrast in the second was compelling to say the least. No doubt inspired from Wilson’s sublime individual effort at the end of the first half, the United youngsters started to show what they were all about with speed, skill and the flair. The very components expected from a United youth team. United were now opening up the City defence almost at will, Tom Lawrence, who also started in the Hull City match where Wilson grabbed 2 senior debut goals also began to showcase his own array of talent along with Josh Harrop now dominating the midfield and Saidy Janko providing some excellent width down the right hand side. It wasn’t long until United took the lead, a neat through ball by Perrera also now excelling in the number 10 role slotted the perfect ball through to Wilson who finished expertly with his left foot.
The United boy’s were clearly now enjoying themselves and the reactions from the City players strongly suggested this was a hotly contested match. More disappointment came for City when Wilson was put through again who this time got the luck he deserved when his deflected effort off the keepers legs went the right side of the post. Wilson would wrap things up nicely with his 4th in the last 10 minutes of the game finishing off another nicely worked move again with his left foot. It would be easy on this performance and his outing against Hull to believe the Wilson is a pure finisher. But on Thursday’s performance James Wilson Showed he is so much more than that. His first goal for instance showed his incredible dribbling ability. He also has the uncanny ability of finding the right pass. One of the matches best footballing moments came when Wilson made a diagonal run across the 18 yard line to reverse the perfect ball into Pererra’s path and he also did something similar for Tom Lawrence.
No doubt James Wilson will be a number 9, but his unique talent is surely going to push him to greatness. So why has is taken Manchester United so long to produce a forward of this quality? Alex Ferguson would use the youth system brilliantly as we saw star after star come though the United ranks, but as pleasing as it was annoying, one couldn’t help but wonder, where were all the strikers? Not since Mark Hughes and Norman Whiteside had United produced strikers of genuine quality. Whilst the like of Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs took the early premiership years by storm on the wings, they were followed by the likes of David Beckham, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt. Just when it looked like Paul Scholes was going to be the centre forward we were craving, Paul’s unique skill set was to be better showcased in midfield.
There was hope though, and one cannot help but wonder if the treble winning strikers of Cole, Sheringham, Solskjaer and Yorke hampered the United Career of David Healey. His impressive debut against Ipswich in 2001 was shortly followed with a transfer to Preston North End. The striking positions at United must be the hardest to break into.
Over the years United have boasted some of the finest hit men in Europe. From the heady days of the treble foursome to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Louis Saha and of course Wayne Rooney. Tevez came and went as did the much maligned Diego Forlan, who’s career seemed to take off after leaving united culminating in the 2010 world cup golden boot.
After an impressive season in the 2011-12 it looked like at last Danny Welbeck would finally take the mantle, but after a certain Dutchman wanted to leave Arsenal, Danny had to be content with a bit part left sided role, one that hampered his development throughout the 2012-2013 season. Kiko Macheda lifted hopes higher than anyone with his uncanny, incredible and downright excellent match (title?) winning goal with 70 seconds remaining against Aston Villa in 2009. He followed that up with a winner against Sunderland a week later, only to be out for most of the 2009-2010 season with injury that hampered his progress.
Watching James Wilson the other night, and with his 2 debut goals already under his belt. I realised this is one players talent we simply can’t afford to waste. Nearly all United fans cringe when we hear the rumours of being linked with Cavani. Although that looks more like a agent ploy to engineer the price retention of an expensive player. United fans will also cringe when we hear that Chicarito might be leaving. His 20 goal debut season will be much remembered, as will his match winning header against Everton in the 2011 title run in and his goal in the opening seconds at home to Chelsea a few weeks later. But nostalgia aside, with a player like Wilson in our ranks there simply just isn’t room for everyone, and although it will be sad to see a fans favorite like Hernandez leave the club, if it marks the start of the career of a talent so sublime and so unique, then we have trust in Van Gaal.
LVG is very good at managing young talent, the likes of Januzaj and Wilson could well be huge Manchester United stars by the time the Dutchman decides to move on, which I hope is longer than the 3 years currently agreed. As far as James Wilson goes though, here we have a young man who at last has the ability to become a United Striker of unrivalled quality. A player that has come up through the ranks that could well have a similar status of Wayne Rooney in future years and at last James Wilson and to some extent Danny Welbeck could potentially be 2 youth strikers that could stand on the same pedestal as the class of 92 and break the unwanted tradition of not being able produce strikers to the same standard as other areas of the pitch.