Another young midfielder is set to depart Old Trafford having been involved in a contract standoff all season long and failing to agree new terms
Back in 2012, Paul Pogba allowed his Manchester United contract to elapse, failing to agree a new deal. He instead moved to Italy to join Juventus, where he became an integral part of Antonio Conte’s all-conquering team and appeared in the 2015 Champions League final against Barcelona.
The Frenchman was frustrated with a lack of first-team opportunities at Old Trafford, appearing only seven times in all competitions, before deciding to try his luck elsewhere.
After his Juventus successes and following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, United moved to buy Pogba back for a world-record fee. They watched as Pogba developed into a world-class talent and were left to wonder what could have been had he been able to make the breakthrough in the first place.
Angel Gomes is in a similar situation to Pogba, however, there are no such guarantees over his potential. While Barcelona and Chelsea have both been linked with the England youth midfielder’s signature, he has a long way to go in order to prove that he could be another one that got away.
Gomes has been at United since the age of six but now appears destined to leave his boyhood club for nothing, unless there is a dramatic 11th-hour U-turn. His first-team minutes under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been limited but a contract standoff, which has lasted most of the season, has not helped his cause.
Solskjaer has not been willing to pick the 19-year-old with his commitment to the club under the microscope. As such Gomes has had to content himself with only three starts this season – all in the Europa League. Furthermore, he was the only member of the travelling party which went to LASK before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown who did not make the matchday squad.
Heading into the final day of his contract on June 30 the teenager had yet to agree to the terms on offer from United. A new deal has been on the table from the club for a long time and through the protracted negotiations, which have overshadowed Gomes’ opportunities during the current campaign, the offer was improved.
It is understood Gomes was being offered in the region of £30,000 a week but concerns over playing time mean he has had his head turned.
When he came on to replace Wayne Rooney on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign, Gomes made history as the youngest player to represent the club since Duncan Edwards in 1953 and, having impressed for the U18 team, there was hope the dynamic attacking midfielder would go on to break more records.
Despite impressing in the younger age groups and being key to England winning the U17 World Cup in 2017, he fluffed his lines when it came to auditioning for more minutes in the first team.
“You can ask Angel why he’s not signed, I don’t know what the talks are behind the scenes. Angel’s a top kid,” Solskjaer said the day before Gomes’ contract was due to expire.
“Of course there’s people around him that advise him to do different things. If he doesn’t sign all the best to Angel and I’m going to follow his career. If he signs for us, let’s kick on.”
While his representatives have looked to get him a better deal elsewhere, be that with a guarantee of more first-team minutes or an improved financial package, his opportunities at United have dried up.
From Gomes’ perspective you can understand why he is frustrated, he wanted to prove himself and push for a first-team place with his boyhood club.
When Scott McTominay pushed into the first-team set-up under Mourinho there were more technically gifted players in the academy but injuries saw him given a chance and he took it.
Mourinho was a fan and the Scotland international worked hard to keep his place in the squad and hasn’t looked back since.
The same can be said for Brandon Williams. While other players in Neil Wood’s Under-23 squad were getting attention, Williams was going about his job of impressing Solskjaer under the radar and, since his debut in September, he’s made 27 appearances in all competitions.
But Gomes, like Pogba was eight years ago, is still on the outside looking in.
Nonetheless, Solskjaer wanted to keep Gomes and all those behind the scenes at Old Trafford hold him in high regard. Earlier this year Nicky Butt spoke of Gomes’ talent, referring to him as ‘unbelievable’ and he hoped he would commit his future to United.
But, on this occasion, it appears the circumstances couldn’t quite align and he will have to realise his potential elsewhere. For a player who turns 20 before the new season and who has just 46 Premier League minutes to his name it looks like it could be a big gamble for Gomes to move on.
Only time will tell whether, like Pogba, it was a risk worth taking.