Alas, it has happened. In hindsight, it was bound to occur, but still, I kept faith that things would work out between both parties and he would eventually agree to a contract extension. I guess I was being naïve but it’s official. Manchester United have confirmed that Angel Gomes has parted ways with the club, ending his 14-year association with the Red Devils.
It is honestly such a shame. I still remember when Gomes made his debut for the club on May 21, 2017, in a match against Crystal Palace. He replaced Wayne Rooney in the 88th minute, and at 16 years and 253 days, he officially became the club’s youngest ever player since Duncan Edwards in 1953. The son of former Portuguese Under-21 player Gil Gomes and the godson of United cult hero Nani, there was a lot of hype about Gomes following his debut. He appeared destined for great things, and United fans eagerly awaited to see him in action for the club. Yet, that never happened.
While Jose gave him his debut, he hardly featured under the Portuguese after that. He only appeared once more, as an 88th-minute substitute for Marcus Rashford against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup. When Ole took charge, it was widely expected that more opportunities would be given to academy prospects, and, to a large extent, he did fulfill those expectations. Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have benefited immensely from regular first-team playing time. Players like Tahith Chong and Axel Tuanzebe seem to be in the long term plans of the Norwegian and have played a fair bit as well. The same can’t be said for Gomes.
In short, I think Ole has mismanaged the player. He offended Gomes by saying that he was “too small” to be playing in the Premier League. Standing at 1.61m (5’3″), Gomes certainly isn’t the tallest player you’d ever meet. However, he makes up for his short height with his pace, dribbling ability, and fantastic balance on the ball (no surprise given his lower centre of gravity). While Ole has demonstrated to his other academy peers that they would feature in his plans, he has done nothing to suggest the same for Gomes. The young attacking midfielder has only played six times (3 starts & 3 substitute appearances) this season. By contrast, Tahith Chong, whom I believe pales in comparison to Angel Gomes in technical ability and natural talent, has featured 11 times (4 starts & 7 substitute appearances) for the Red Devils. Gomes felt that it was time for him to leave and head somewhere he would be better appreciated.
However, Ole might be faced with another potential Paul Pogba situation. Back in the summer of 2012, Paul Pogba left Manchester United on a free transfer to Juventus after his contract expired. The Frenchman left Old Trafford after he believed that Ferguson didn’t trust in his abilities. Ferguson will forever be known as one of the best managers of all time, but he has his flaws. Letting Pogba go would be one his biggest mistakes and one that cost Manchester United dearly. Pogba went on to shine at Juventus. Realizing what they missed out on, the Red Devils paid the Italian giants £89.3 million to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford. With Chelsea reportedly interested in signing Gomes, Manchester United could see a repeat of one of their best talents playing brilliantly for another club, or worse, a rival one.
I felt the need to re-look at his time at United, and by doing so, I started to ask myself a few questions. These are questions that Ole needs to ask himself to prevent more instances of the “Pogba Situation.”
Even if Ole believed that Gomes wasn’t big enough to play in the Premier League, why was he never loaned out? Even during the past January transfer window, Gomes was denied the opportunity of a loan move to another Premier League side. The United hierarchy could have provided a loan opportunity subject to an agreement of a new contract. More importantly, why wasn’t Gomes loaned out when it became clear that he was not going to feature in Ole’s plans. A move would have helped the hot prospect demonstrate what he could offer United.
Furthermore, I can’t entirely agree with Ole that Gomes’s small stature would be a significant hindrance. Does size really matter? Personally, I don’t think so. The Manchester United squad has enough tall players, and some of the world’s best attacking players are of small stature. Besides Messi, Atlanta’s Papu Gomez, Argentina legend Diego Maradonna, and ex-Liverpool stalwart Samuel Peter Lee are just some players who come to mind. If he was given a better chance like his peers and if he was given some guidance, he would have certainly stayed at United.
Now, if Gomes joins Chelsea, you can be sure he is going to show United what they missed out on and potentially, come back to haunt the Red Devils. Don’t think Lampard won’t feature him as well. If it’s one thing that we’ve seen Lampard do, it’s that unlike previous Chelsea managers, he wants to offer more opportunities to young English players. Angel Gomes fits that bill.
To conclude, let me say this. Gomes could have developed into a proper first-team player for United had he been given the proper development. Even though United have signed Bruno Fernandes, who plays in a similar attacking midfield position, Gomes would have had chances galore in a season or two. Juan Mata would probably have retired by then, and Ole would have probably offloaded Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira. When these players do leave the club, I hope United don’t regret that they had someone like Gomes within their ranks that could have replaced them and instead splurge an enormous amount of money on a replacement. It’ll be a case of déjà vu for the club if that replacement happens to be Gomes himself.
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