Kambwala becomes latest debutant from United Academy

Saturday 23 December 2023 11:45

Willy Kambwala's inclusion in the starting line-up against West Ham United is another moment of immense pride for the Manchester United Academy.

The tall centre-back is the 248th graduate from the club's youth system to feature in the men's first team, and the fourth to do so under Erik ten Hag.

Our Dutch manager previously sent on Dan Gore as a substitute against Crystal Palace in September, while last season he gave senior debuts to Kobbie Mainoo - in January's home Carabao Cup tie against Charlton Athletic - and Charlie McNeill in the home Europa League meeting with Real Sociedad.

Kambwala's shirt hanging in the away dressing room at West Ham.
Wearing the no.53 shirt, Kambwala starts against the Hammers alongside the vastly experienced Jonny Evans, also an Academy graduate, of course. The 35-year-old Northern Ireland international made his own breakthrough with the Reds back in September 2007.

Willy's fellow centre-back, Rhys Bennett, who captained United's FA Youth Cup-winning team in 2022, is named among Ten Hag's substitutes at the London Stadium. If he comes on, he'll take the tally of debutants from our Academy up to 249.

The two young defenders feature on a day when the Reds are missing their fellow centre-backs Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof due to injury, and Raphael Varane because of illness. Our starting right-back against Liverpool last Sunday, Diogo Dalot, is suspended after being sent off in that game.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 25 August 2004, Willy spent his formative years in France where he captained the country's Under-16 team.

Signed from Sochaux on transfer deadline day in October 2020, he made an impressive United youth debut in a convincing victory over Derby County Under-18s, displaying speed and intelligence.
Why Kambwala starts Video

Why Kambwala starts

Erik ten Hag explains the selection of Academy centre-back Willy Kambwala, in his pitchside pre-match chat with MUTV...

An injury lay-off followed before he returned in 2021/22. The defender made his UEFA Youth League bow during that campaign, in the home game against Villarreal, and kicked on further in 2022/23.

Kambwala was selected in a senior matchday squad for the first time last weekend, when he watched from the bench at Anfield as a resilient United drew 0-0 with Liverpool in the Premier League.