Angel Gomes looks set to play a pivotal role again when Manchester United take on Juventus in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday afternoon (15:00 GMT kick-off).
The 18-year-old has captained both Nicky Butt’s team and the Under-23s this term and is learning from playing in two very different competitions. His role is also different in the two sides, as Butt has used him as a deep-lying playmaker as part of a diamond formation, while he is often deployed further forward in Ricky Sbragia’s Premier League 2 line-up.
Both coaches have provided positive comments on Gomes this term, as he is over the injury problems that upset his progress towards the end of last season and showing the form that has already earned him first-team recognition under Jose Mourinho, plus a place on last summer’s tour of the United States.
Speaking to MUTV ahead of the match in Turin, the England Under-19 international discussed his different roles and responsibilities at home and abroad.”In the Under-19s, Nicky has been playing me a bit deeper,” he said.
“Mainly to keep the ball ticking. We’ve got enough firepower up front to get the goals in. So the role is a bit different with the Under-19s, and I am playing a bit deeper, but I’ve played in that position before and I’m quite used to playing there. I’m quite comfortable there but I’ll play anywhere I get played. I don’t mind where I’m playing.
“In the UEFA Youth League, it’s difficult as you’re playing against the best team teams in Europe and the best players in the world at their age. If you don’t have the ball, you’ll be doing a lot of running. So I think the way we plan our games is to keep a lot of possession, keeping the ball, and we’ve done it really well in our previous games. We’ve got some good results and hopefully can keep it going.
”We’ve got two big wins versus two very good sides [in the last two home games against Valencia and Juventus] and that can only give us more confidence going into the following games and the tournament as a whole. I think everyone is buzzing for the next game and we’ll have to wait and see but we’ll give it our all really.
”I’ve been with a few of these players my whole career coming up. We really are a tight-knit group and everyone supports each other on and off the pitch. You can see it on the pitch – everyone communicates and is working for each other. If we carry on, who knows how far we can go in the tournament?
”There are a lot of differences with the Under-23 games compared to the Under-19s. The Under-23s are more physical. You’re playing senior players whereas the Under-19s is more your age so you can have a bit more fun in those matches, even if it is so competitive in the UEFA Youth League, as a whole. It’s a great tournament to play in and it’s been good so far.”
“The higher up you go, as you get older, you’ve got to mature and I think one of the main things is learning how to help the team,”he said.
“Not just on the ball but off the ball. The more you do it, the more, like you say, you get recognised for things you’re not used to getting recognised for. I was happy with the comment Ricky made as it’s not something I’ve been praised for before really. So I have to keep it up and carry on working for the team.
”It’s what is expected so you have to make the most of these games so I’m ready and can show what I can do – on and off the ball. I’m feeling a lot fitter and a lot stronger. The physios here are amazing and they know what I’m capable of doing and help me out every day. The more I’m in the gym, working hard and the more I’m on the pitch, working hard, the better it is for me and for the team.
”I’ve been in and around the first team a few times and getting a few training sessions. It’s always good to show what you can do and it’s been good so far.”
Watch highlights of the UEFA Youth League tie at Juventus from 23:00 GMT on MUTV.
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