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6 Future Manchester derby stars you may not know

Forget Aguero and Lukaku, these are the next generation of United and City stars

Tom Bodell

Local derbies still provide the highlight of the fixture calendar for supporters, but there’s no getting away from the fact local needle on the pitch has been diluted in the age of£100million superstars.

The Manchester derby is a case in point. United and City have more financial muscle than any of their Premier League peers and neither is afraid to prove it.

However, for all the criticism levelled at Mourinho this season he has made academy products Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay regulars in his side. Meanwhile, Guardiola has also handed local lads Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo fleeting tastes of first-team action.

They are the exception, though, as academy graduates find it increasingly hard to break into their respective teams. But that could be about to change as United and City both have a number of exciting talents in their under-age sides.

Ahead of this weekend’s potential title-clincher at the Etihad, our friends at Football Whispers look at six potential future stars of the Manchester derby you may not have heard of.

Angel Gomes (Manchester United)

With ex-United winger Nani for a godfather and a dad who represented Portugal Under-21s, Gomes has long been tipped for a glittering Old Trafford career.

The attacking midfielder, 17, joined United’s academy as a six-year-old and last year became the youngest player to win the Jimmy Murphy Youth Team Player of the Year award after hitting 12 goals in 19 starts for the under-18s.

The following day Gomes trained with Jose Mourinho’s first team and was on the bench for the final-day win over Crystal Palace.

He replaced Wayne Rooney late on, becoming the youngest player in Manchester United’s history – eclipsing Duncan Edwards’ 64-year record. He was also the first player born in 2000 to play in the Premier League.

Brahim Diaz (Manchester City)

The diminutive Spanish playmaker was likened to Barcelona great Lionel Messi after making an impressive Champions League debut for City against Shakhtar Donetsk in this season’s Champions League.

City lost on the night – with their progress to the last-16 already confirmed – but Diaz’s half-hour cameo was an exciting glimpse into the future.

There are few things Guardiola gets more excited about than a small Spanish playmaker and Diaz, who has been with the Citizens since joining from hometown club Malaga in 2013, ticks all the boxes.

A Spain Under-21 international, Diaz made his Premier League debut against Newcastle in December, adding two further appearances since.

Tahith Chong (Manchester United)

There’s no shortage of attackers in Mourinho’s first-team squad and that’s a trend which is true of United’s academy too.

As well as Gomes, the Red Devils have another forward player of great potential in Dutchman Chong. The 18-year-old winger joined United in July 2016 from Feyenoord and has been raising eyebrows ever since.

With an afro which dwarfs Marouane Fellaini’s it’s hard to miss Chong. But on the field the Curacao native is nothing like the Belgian. Blessed with tricky feet and electric pace, Chong can beat his man, whip in dangerous crosses and score goals.

Knee ligament damage suffered at the end of last season ruled him out for ten months before making his debut for Ricky Sbragia’s under-23 side against Tottenham at Old Trafford in January, lighting up a disappointing defeat with a well-taken first-half goal.

Lukas Nmecha (Manchester City)

The sale of Kelechi Iheanacho to Leicester City last summer was good news for forward Nmecha who became the Citizens’ de facto third-choice striker behind Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

The 19-year-old has twice been an unused substitute in the Premier League and made his debut for City against Leicester in the Carabao Cup in December, getting 32 minutes from the bench before scoring in the penalty shoot-out.

Nmecha, who was born in Hamburg to Nigerian parents, moved to Manchester aged nine and has represented England at youth level. Last summer he scored the winner in the final and semi-final as the Three Lions were crowned Under-19 European Champions.

A City fan, Nmecha began his career as a winger but has evolved into an out-and-out No.9, with Guardiola stating in January he would train with the first team for the rest of the season. Younger brother Felix, a midfielder, is also a member of City’s academy but recently elected to represent Germany.

Millen Baars (Manchester United)

United have developed a habit of signing Dutch players in recent years and Baars became the latest in July, following Daley Blind and Timothy Fosu-Mensah from Ajax after nine years in Amsterdam.

The 16-year-old winger announced he was joining the 20-time Premier League champions via his Instagram page after being spotted by United’s Dutch scout Marcel Bout.

His father Stefan told Noordhollands Dagblad: “There was interest from Italy, Portugal and England, but when he visited Chelsea and United to look around, he knew he wanted to play in Manchester. He did not even see Arsenal; his choice was made.”

Comfortable playing in any position behind the centre forward or in the centre of midfield, Baars’ intelligence compensates for his lack of pace. If he tastes even a fraction of the success Dutch greats Jaap Stam, Edwin van der Sar or Robin van Persie enjoyed at United, he’ll have done well.

Eric Garcia (Manchester City)

The centre-back is a graduate of Barcelona’s academy, so there can be few better mentors than Carles Puyol and Guardiola. And the 17-year-old has both in his corner, with ex-Barca skipper Puyol his agent.

Signed from the Catalan giants last summer, Barcelona were unimpressed to lose Garcia who they felt was one of the outstanding players in their much-vaunted academy set up. But the teenager elected to turn down the offer of a new contract and move to the Etihad Stadium.

Despite being a central defender by trade, Garcia has played in both full-back positions this season, where his ability on the ball has come into its own. A Spanish youth international, he was part of the side which won the Under-17 European Championships last summer.

Given Guardiola’s love of ball-playing defenders it should not be long before Garcia makes his City breakthrough. And with Puyol behind him, he could go far.

By Tom Bodell – follow Tom and the rest of the team at Football Whispers on Twitter @FB_Whispers

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