Manchester United pair in top three: 10 brilliant teenagers who can rescue struggling clubs

Matt Stead
Newcastle players celebrate with Lewis Miley
"Naw, look at those chubby little cheeks!"

Manchester United are among the clubs already leaning heavily on teenagers through injury crises or problems with form. Some other teams should follow suit.


10) Youssef Chermiti (Everton)
The horse had bolted, carrying a 10-point deduction in its saddle, when Sean Dyche explained in August that his ideal striker would cost “too much money”. Those financial constraints forced the sort of creative accounting which landed “mid-term project” Chermiti in the Everton manager’s lap.

“I am not worried about the age. It is more about his ability to play,” Dyche added of the Portuguese forward, who has reached double figures for minutes in only one of his six Premier League appearances but has nevertheless impressed in those bursts.

While Chermiti remains unprepared for opportunities from the start, both player and club might benefit from a gradual increase in chances off the bench – particularly after his bright cameo against Manchester United.


9) Andrey Santos (Nottingham Forest)
How noble of Chelsea to lead the brave crusade against the rise in talent hoarding at certain clubs. The righteous Blues have been trying to fight the good fight during a series of discussions with Nottingham Forest over the misuse – or rather complete lack of use – of loanee Santos.

A break clause in the deal is likely to be triggered by a dissatisfied Chelsea come January, considering the Brazilian midfielder has started a solitary League Cup defeat and played a whole seven Premier League minutes, also in a losing effort.

The 19-year-old has not even made the last two Forest matchday squads, despite Steve Cooper “really enjoying working with him and seeing him in training”. A run of one win in nine is surely enough of a catalyst to consider trying anything different but still Fabrizio Romano shouts into the void.


8) Yehor Yarmoliuk (Brentford)
Another Brentford B team success story, Yarmoliuk has been on the Bees’ books since July 2022 and impressed enough in his first year outside of Ukraine to earn not only a promotion to the seniors, but a five-year contract extension this summer.

The midfielder was an unused substitute for the first eight games of the season, then shone in 15-minute cameos in the next four matches before making his first Premier League start against Arsenal. “It was an unbelievable feeling,” Yarmoliuk said, with Thomas Frank praising “a good performance”.

As the Brentford injury problems roll on, the 19-year-old has taken advantage of an adverse situation to establish himself as a viable option in one of the Premier League’s more tightly-knit groups.


7) Jack Hinshelwood (Brighton)
Any Brighton player not currently injured or suspended is absolutely vital to them right now. Even Hinshelwood, who lost his first and only Premier League start 6-1 back in September, before filling in at left-back for an hour against Nottingham Forest and conceding a penalty after replacing Tariq Lamptey, who obviously went off with a knock.


6) Divin Mubama (West Ham)
West Ham were headed for the ignominy of losing to Burnley at Turf Moor before profiting from Mohammed and some Divin intervention. Danny Ings toiled for an hour on his old stomping ground to no avail, while his replacement Mubama helped force the equaliser from the bench.

It was perfect timing for Mubama, whose refusal to renew a contract which expires at the end of this season continues to hover in the background at West Ham. The justification for his decision – a perceived lack of opportunities – was only underlined when David Moyes leaned on Ings with Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio out injured against the Clarets.

“We want to play him but I would say how many 19 year-old centre-forwards are there in the Premier League?” was a typically Moyesian post-match retort but Mubama did more in his first league appearance of the season than some of the players the manager continues to back.

“With players unavailable come opportunities in football, and you have to step up and take them, and be ready for them,” said Mubama, who will otherwise just be happy for the chance to let his ability do the talking.


5) Wilson Odobert (Burnley)
Nine different players have started at least one Premier League game in either of the two wide forward positions for Burnley this season. Odobert is unique in doing so and simultaneously scoring.

But after his fine goal and display in an eventual defeat to Chelsea in early October, the Frenchman was substituted at half-time in the next game and has only played a further 14 minutes, not even making the bench for the West Ham defeat.

At this stage, Odobert is surely just worth a go somewhere in defence? It can’t be much worse.


4) Romeo Lavia (Chelsea)
Wherefore art thou indeed. Christopher Nkunku is universally considered to be the injured piece missing from this Chelsea jigsaw, the magic bullet for their misfiring attack, but Lavia’s own imminent return should help a flagging midfield.

Liverpool have hardly been made to regret their failed move for Moises Caicedo and the Stamford Bridge side’s continued struggles suggest Lavia will fare no better in that regard, yet the teenager can at least offer something different to Mauricio Pochettino.

Chelsea’s midfield is perhaps the least of their problems. Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez and Conor Gallagher is a fine engine room assembled at ludicrous expense. Lavia, though, is an intriguing element to add to that equation.


3) Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United)
The mentions of Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Paul Pogba were predictably hyperbolic, although an entirely understandable reaction to witnessing the actual miracle of a Manchester United midfielder dropping between the centre-halves to pick up the ball, turning into space and driving past players, or simply playing it forward, or even just being able to run and not do something incredibly stupid.

Gary Neville said Mainoo was the “standout performer” and “more composed than anyone”. “What a player this lad looks,” was the assessment of Danny Murphy, which is about as animated as he gets. But the highest praise possible was Roy Keane noting that “he looked a Man Utd type of player”. It sounds like an insult in November 2023 yet the message was clear: he is proper.

READ MORENeville claims Guardiola, City ‘will want’ Man Utd star after ‘classy’ Everton showing – ‘it hurts to say’


2) Lewis Miley (Newcastle United)
When Miley made his professional debut as Newcastle’s youngest ever Premier League player in May, he found himself approaching a loose ball on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area. “It was just instinctive really,” he later said of his decision to shoot and hit the crossbar. “I had no fear taking on that shot. Hopefully, I can do that going forward.”

The scenario was slightly different six months later: Miley was starting and not a substitute; the venue was St James’ Park instead of Stamford Bridge; Newcastle have about three fit and available players. But when the ball rebounded to Miley’s feet around 20 yards out, his impulse was to look up and slide Alexander Isak a sumptuous assist instead of shooting.

As Eddie Howe pointedly said after the game: “The biggest compliment I can give him is the pass for the goal because it’s very easy at that age to want to shoot and get individual glory but he’s made an incredible decision.”

Whether a mere coincidence or a sign of the 17-year-old’s increase in maturity over half a year as a fixed cog in the first-team machine, Miley’s ability to step up in Newcastle’s time of need as the blueprint of a perfect Howe player has underlined his importance not only in an injury-hit present, but the bright future.


1) Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United)
The Venn Diagram intersection between Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo was already overpopulated by the 2006 World Cup, Piers ‘shut up u egg’ Morgan, making Manchester United panic by flirting with Manchester City and the far less memorable three Premier League titles and one Champions League they won together. Then Alejandro Garnacho popped up at Goodison Park and the pair are sharing headline space again in November 2023.

A truly sublime strike has already been compared and contrasted with the sport’s best displays of individual brilliance. ‘Shin’ was probably an intermittently trending term on social media for a couple of days. Erik ten Hag ticked the manager’s box of dragging Garnacho back down to earth by saying he “has to work very hard” to reach that level consistently and turn those “glimpses” into more lasting sights of quality.

But as part of a stuttering attack, Ten Hag will know precisely the value of that ability to conjure something from nothing. Garnacho did precious little for the rest of the game against Everton, nor did he need to. If you’re going to contribute your first Premier League goal or assist since May, might as well make it one you can live off for at least a few weeks.

Alejandro Garnacho, Manchester United, November 2023
Alejandro Garnacho scores stunning overhead kick for Manchester United