James Wilson used Manchester United‘s inaugural match in the UEFA U-19 Youth League to announce himself on the European stage. He scored two goals to helped seal United’s 4 – 3 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
Wilson opened his account after just four minutes as he capitalised on a mistake by Leverkusen’s keeper Schnitzler who decided to come out of his goal instead of letting his defender deal with the ball, and Wilson slotted into an empty net.
Pearson put United two goals up and Wilson almost made it three soon after, forcing a save from Schnitzler after a great run. The service to Wilson mostly dried up after that but whenever he got the ball in the final third, he was a threat.
It was after McNair got sent off and United were weathering a barrage of Leverkusen attacks that Wilson stepped up to produce a moment of individual brilliance.
Wilson powered from the halfway line and used his pace and strength to put the German defence under huge pressure, and his fantastic run led to Frey pulling him down in the box. The 17-year-old made no mistake from the spot and showed tremendous composure to score the match-winning penalty in the dying minutes. It was a thrilling game of live football from the Under-19’s that was matched by the dramatic winner from Wilson.
He is carrying on the incredible form he has shown since the beginning of the season having scored five goals in five appearances in the Barclay’s Under-18 Premier League. His slight figure is deceptive as it is his strength as well as his pace which combine together to give defenders nightmares. This was shown in his most recent goal at that level against Arsenal.
He started scoring on his Under-18 debut at just 15 and hasn’t stopped since he memorably scored five in a 7-1 win over Newcastle.
He recently made his England Under-19 debut and scored after just 12 minutes in the 6-1 thrashing of Estonia. It’s not unusual for him to play at a higher age level as he made his first appearance for United’s Under-21 side in the 2011/12 season when he was just 16.
Apart from the goals, his runs terrorise defences and he is equally capable of setting up a goal as finishing one himself. A striker with natural poaching skills, he’s also not afraid to put in a shift and will go back and help out his midfield and defence when required.
He can also play on the left wing and has blistering pace as well as a great ability to seek out and attack his opponents weak spots. It’s probably for these reasons, as well as his experience, that he has been given the added responsibility of captaining the Under-18 side and he’s relishing it.
For a player who scores a large variety of goals from the simple to the sublime, he’s modest and unassuming and isn’t one for flashy celebrations. He just puts his head down and works to get the next goal or create the next chance. Wilson just gets on with his game and leaves the excitement for those who watch him play.
There are many obstacles in his path to the first team not least his fellow academy graduates Danny Welbeck and Will Keane but if Wilson keeps progressing and scoring as he has been, I wouldn’t bet against seeing him in the first team in a few years.