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‘Grounded’ Shola Shoretire has bright Man Utd future after historic Euro debut

Manchester United v Real Sociedad – UEFA Europa League – Round of 32 – Second Leg – Old Trafford
(Image credit: Martin Rickett)

Shola Shoretire made history on Thursday when he was introduced from the bench during Manchester United’s goalless draw with Real Sociedad in the Europa League.

Aged 17 and 23 days, the attacker arrived on the pitch in place of fellow academy graduate Mason Greenwood with 14 minutes of the round of 32 second leg tie still to be played.

It made Shoretire the youngest ever player to represent United in a European match, taking the record off Norman Whiteside.

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The teenager has attracted plenty of headlines in 2021 but what do we know about the next player from the Red Devils’ conveyor belt of homegrown talent?

Born in Newcastle, Shoretire’s first taste of football occurred at Wallsend Boys Club, who have developed several England internationals.

North East greats Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer progressed through the Tyneside club in addition to United title winners Steve Bruce and Michael Carrick.

Shoretire would not spend long with the youth side though before elite clubs close by had taken an interest including Newcastle. The Magpies would miss out on his signature in the end and Old Trafford would prove his eventual destination despite a stint with rivals City.

Hard-working and ready to do extra before he had even reached the age of 10, the forward grasped his opportunity and has progressed at a rapid rate.

While history has been made this week, the Geordie first etched his name into the record books in 2018 when Nicky Butt brought him on as a substitute in the UEFA Youth League against Valencia aged only 14. It made him the youngest-ever player to appear in the tournament.

Continuously playing above his age group and now in a wide position, Shoretire helped the Red Devils reach the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2020.

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He scored in the last eight against Wigan – the first time he would net at Old Trafford in front of a crowd – and made 20 appearances for the Under-18s that season.

It was not long before he made another jump, this time to the Under-23s and he debuted in Premier League 2 as a 16-year-old in September against Leicester with his rise not showing any signs of slowing.

Games in the Papa John’s Trophy further added to his footballing experience with defeats away to Morecambe and Accrington a learning curve for the teenager and his team-mates.

Under-23 coach Neil Wood recently told the PA news agency: “Anything I ask him to do he’s no problem and he will do it so, yeah, I do think he’s very mature beyond his years.

“And I think that’s helped him to settle in to playing 23s football and he’s always played with older players anyway.”

Alongside players with more experience, Shoretire took it in his stride and soon he caught the eye of first-team boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

His 17th birthday was marked in style with a first professional contract and a hat-trick against Blackburn in Premier League 2 but there was still plenty left to celebrate in February.

Shoretire joined the first-team bubble with excitement over a potential debut building in and out of the club and he was included in the travelling party for the round of 32 first leg tie with Real Sociedad in Turin.

While the teenager remained an unused substitute, days later on February 21 he got the nod from Solskjaer to make his professional debut for the Red Devils.

Marcus Rashford was replaced in the 89th minute of the 3-1 league win over Newcastle by the Man United number 74, the same shirt number he wore when he made history in the UEFA Youth League.

With the No.74 on his back, another record, this one niche, was set – the highest squad number ever won by a Red Devils player in a competitive men’s first-team fixture.

The fleeting appearance against his hometown team, made the 17-year-old the second youngest player to represent United in the Premier League.

Shoretire told the official club website: “Hopefully, it’s just the start. I’m going to keep working hard in training, keeping my head down and keeping humble and looking forward to playing more.”

Solskjaer did not do anything to fan the flames about the potential of the attacker either, he said: “Shola is going to play many games for us if he keeps doing what he’s doing.”

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The Norwegian was true to his word and on February 25 a longer stint was afforded in the second leg tie against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford.

Replacing another idol, this time Greenwood, Shoretire played the final 14 minutes on the five-year anniversary of Rashford’s United debut against Midtjylland also in the Europa League.

Solskjaer is eager to keep Shoretire on the right path and the attacker will remain in the first-team bubble while also being able to continue playing for the Under-23s.

“Shola is going to be a good player for us,” the United manager insisted.

“He’s grounded, got his feet firmly on the ground and he works really hard in training. Very likeable boy that we hope we can see loads of in the future.”

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