Anthony Elanga ‘s ascension has been an undeniable positive spot in Manchester United’s tumultuous season.
After coming on as a second-half replacement, the youthful striker scored a critical equalizer in Wednesday’s first leg Champions League last-16 tie at Atletico Madrid, calling it a dream come true.
During Sunday’s 4-2 win over Leeds, Elanga also scored his second Premier League goal in nine games. Given that he has only played the full 90 minutes twice in the Premier League (including his debut against Wolves in the penultimate game of last season), an overall top-flight return of three from 11 games isn’t terrible.
Elanga’s emergence has provided welcome relief for a club that prides itself on youth development, following a string of heartbreaking results, a managerial sacking, coaches leaving, rumours of camp splits, and players taking to social media to question statements made about them in press conferences by their interim boss.
On Tuesday, Brazil midfielder Fred described the club’s lack of a long-term strategy as “a little bit problematic,” adding, “At the moment, it’s all about the short-term ambitions.”
Impact right now
It would be unfair to attribute Elanga’s recent growth only to Rangnick.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s predecessor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, handed the Sweden Under-21 attacker his first start last season and promoted him to train with the first-team squad this season.
Rangnick witnessed Anthony Elanga in action the day after United defeated Arsenal on December 2nd, when training on the German’s first day in command was limited due to the large number of players participating in warm-up exercises.
Rangnick was so taken with a player he had previously watched on YouTube during his time at RB Leipzig that he went looking for YouTube recordings of him. Until then, it was thought that Elanga would profit from a January loan.
The idea was rapidly revised because he was so amazing in those early days. Rangnick considered giving the teenager a surprise start against Crystal Palace over the weekend, but he was instead brought from the bench.
Rangnick recalls, “He just showed me from the first training session, the day before the Crystal Palace game.” “He was turning up at the workouts.”
“He’s a very courteous young man who does the right things, listens to what he’s supposed to do, and tries his hardest in his performances.”
Taking a deep breath.
According to United sources, Anthony Elanga’s attitude has been impeccable. His work ethic is strong, and he hasn’t been swayed by recent accolades.
He’s modest, but he’s been embraced by older individuals in the squad, which is a good sign of a gifted player, and he’s made friends with fellow kids Teden Mengi, Shola Shoretire, and Hannibal Mejbri.
Elanga’s birth certificate states that he is Swedish, but he has local knowledge thanks to his father Joseph, a former Cameroon international who played in the 1998 World Cup and relocated to Manchester when he was 12 years old.
He didn’t spend much time at Hattersley Juniors before scouts were alerted to his presence, and United beat out a lot of competition, including Manchester City, to bring him into their academy.
Elanga’s ability to contribute to the team structure, whether as a starter or off the bench, has impressed United’s coaching staff, as has his desire to score more goals. More exposure to high-level football, both at club and with Sweden, is thought to help with this.
Anthony Elanga has been described as a “breath of fresh air” by supporters desperate for some good news after another season of behind Manchester City and Liverpool. He has more than justified his new contract, which will keep him at Old Trafford until 2026.
“Playing for Manchester United has always been my greatest aim,” Elanga remarked at the time. “The bar is set exceedingly high, yet this contract represents yet another milestone in my career.”
Swapping shirts with Pontus
The Premier League and the Championship were both interested in Elanga last summer, after the player had put in a lot of time in the gym and worked hard to develop his speed and jumping ability.
This attention to detail is considered as a gauge of Elanga’s will to succeed, just as speaking four languages, including French and Spanish, demonstrates a well-rounded individual.
However, judging by the way he approached Brentford defender Pontus Jansson to switch shirts after their match in London last month, he still has a childlike quality about him.
Elanga’s father, Jansson, was a Malmo teammate during his second stint with the club. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was a frequent visitor at home when he started his first, in 2000, was as well.
Elanga, like any other young player, must mature. However, given the vast differences in status that accompany the transition from promising junior to first-team player at a club the size of United, it appears he is well positioned to navigate the process as smoothly as possible.
Elanga’s medium-term career path could still include a loan option, with Solskjaer’s permanent successor set to be announced this summer.
Rangnick’s faith in him, however, suggests that the forward will play a significant role in United’s push for a top-four finish and Champions League success in the coming weeks.
And, regardless of how the campaign turns out, United supporters in Elanga have at least one reason to cherish a difficult season.