Erik ten Hag named Zidane Iqbal in Manchester United&aposs squad for the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia and the midfielder was the only youngster to play in all four friendly matches, which suggested he was highly regarded.
Iqbal was desperate to impress during that tour and he pleased Ten Hag with his training performances, although that didn&apost stop the Dutchman from scolding him in training. “Keep the ball on the floor. Zidane, hey! Easy ball, that&aposs f****** rubbish,” Ten Hag shouted at the 19-year-old during a session in Perth and the footage of that moment quickly went viral, unsurprisingly.
Ten Hag gets the best from his players with his &apostough love&apos approach and he&aposs currently overseeing the development of Iqbal, who started in midfield alongside Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek against Cadiz on Wednesday night.
United conceded two early goals against Cadiz and Iqbal&aposs proactive performance was one of the few positives from the first-half display, as he won the penalty for Anthony Martial&aposs goal and looked the most likely source of inspiration.
Iqbal was composed, his passing was dynamic and he seems ready to an impact from off the bench in a competitive fixture.
Ralf Rangnick said he wanted his players to &apostake Elanga as an example&apos during his ill-fated interim tenure last season, but if the dressing room were to emulate him in this campaign, the squad would be scoring even fewer goals.
Elanga is considered Rangnick&aposs legacy, but the German won&apost be fondly remembered in Manchester and his Swedish prodigy&aposs future might eventually also lie away from Old Trafford, although that certainly won&apost be due to his attitude.
The 20-year-old is understood to be exemplary in training and open to learning, which is all supporters can ask for, but he&aposs lacked quality in the final third this season and he was toothless again versus La Liga strugglers Cadiz.
Elanga has contributed just one assist across all competitions this term and he last scored in a competitive fixture in February. His lack of contribution in front of goal has become concerning, but he remains young and does have time on his side.
Mainoo delivers again
Kobbie Mainoo, who is just 17 years old, has been earmarked as the shining light of his age group in the academy and he was outstanding in the successful FA Youth Cup campaign last season, playing in central midfield alongside Dan Gore.
Mainoo was brought on at half-time and he made an immediate impact on the game when scoring in the 48th minute. Mainoo&aposs goal was deflected, but how he fashioned the chance, dancing away from the defender, was impressive.
The Stockport-born midfielder often makes visits to Leigh Sports Village, where the Under-21s play, worth it.
The kids are alright
Alvaro Negredo, who has played for Sevilla, Manchester City, Valencia and Middlesbrough throughout his career, started for Cadiz and the striker is now 37 years old, which means he was double the age of some of United&aposs youngsters in the second half.
Ten Hag made 10 changes at half-time and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka was the only player to survive the exodus. Marc Jurado, Sam, Murray, Mainoo, Charlie McNeill and Isak Hansen-Aaroen were all substituted onto the pitch and those five players lifted the FA Youth Cup at Old Trafford last season, which means they&aposve enjoyed quite a six months since that triumph.
Cadiz played their strongest XI against United&aposs youngsters and they weren&apost completely outclassed, which is promising. The training camp in Spain is a unique opportunity for the Reds&apos young talent and playing against professionals much their senior can only help their development. United U21 manager Mark Dempsey has travelled to Spain and his squad will benefit from the trip.
Dubravka was expected to play in domestic cup competitions and the Europa League after signing for United on loan in the summer, but Ten Hag has preferred to start De Gea in Europe, which means he&aposs made just one competitive appearance.
The Slovakian made his debut against Aston Villa in the League Cup last month and he started at the Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla stadium against Cadiz, but it seems unlikely that his loan from Newcastle will be made permanent.