Wheatley reacts to historic honour

Thursday 25 April 2024 09:44

Ethan Wheatley says playing for Manchester United’s first team is an ‘honour’ that hasn’t really sunk in yet.

The 18-year-old forward was introduced as a stoppage-time substitute by Erik ten Hag during the Reds’ 4-2 Premier League victory over Sheffield United on Wednesday evening.

Wheatley, who was born in nearby Stockport, became the club’s 250th player to graduate from the Academy in the process, as he replaced goalscorer Rasmus Hojlund at Old Trafford.

Ethan had been an unused substitute in the league draw at Bournemouth and was also given a watching brief on Sunday, as we overcame Coventry City in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final.

“Not really, no!” he replied, when asked by MUTV’s Liam Bradford if he’d properly processed the moment. “Even since Wembley, it's just… nothing's really kicked in yet!

Wheatley: Bruno tried to get me a goal! Video

Wheatley: Bruno tried to get me a goal!

This interview with teenage striker Ethan Wheatley, after he became our 250th Academy graduate, is brilliant…

“It’s a great club with a massive history, especially in the Academy as well.

“It’s just an honour to make my debut. And then that number 250 is just a little extra as well.”

Wheatley’s senior debut capped off a remarkable 24 hours, with our no.84 proving the matchwinner for the Under-18s during Tuesday’s Premier League Cup final victory over Manchester City.

He was replaced at half-time of that game at Leigh, along with Harry Amass and Louis Jackson, who have also been named in recent matchday squads by Erik ten Hag. So too Habeeb Ogunneye, who played the second half of the final.

The damage was already done, however, with Wheatley showing his finishing capabilities by superbly netting twice in the opening half, in the 2-1 win.

“As soon as it sat up for me, it just felt right to just hit it, and thankfully it went in,” he said.

“Obviously I got another quite soon after and that was enough to help us get the win. I think that's the first 18s Premier League Cup won by this club, so it's a great feeling.”

He went on to thank the coaches and staff as he reflected on a year of personal growth.

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U18s highlights: United v Man City

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“Adam Lawrence, Colin Little, like all of the staff really, even the analysts: they've all helped me throughout the whole season.

“Last season it was a bit stop-start. I didn't really get to develop as much as I wanted. This season I've been able to stay on the pitch and work on using my body, all these little technical bits as well, and I was talking to the coaches before the game.

“I feel like everything just came into place these last few weeks, and I'm feeling a lot more confident with the way I'm playing.”

U18s lift the Premier League Cup! Video

U18s lift the Premier League Cup!

TROPHY LIFT! We are so proud of our exciting Under-18s, the new Premier League Cup champions...

That confidence almost paid off on the biggest stage of all, as Wheatley was denied a maiden senior goal late on by a well-timed Blades interception.

He revealed Bruno Fernandes – who was the Reds’ standout performer on the night, with two goals and an assist – had a plan to set him up.

“He pulled me to the side and said: ‘I've got nine minutes to try and get you a goal!’

“So I was just trying to get in that position for him and obviously it didn't come, but hopefully, hopefully soon.”