The Manchester United fan base has been left split following the news that an offer has been accepted for promising youngster, Zidane Iqbal, with the academy player set to join FC Utrecht imminently after more than 10 years at the club.
20-year-old Zidane Iqbal has been revered as one of the brightest young talents in Man United‘s academy for a number of years now, finding his way onto the bench seven times in the Premier League and a further nine times in the Europa League last season.
However, despite making his debut back in 2021 to become the first-ever British South Asian player to play for the club, flitting between the youth ranks and sitting as an unused sub has very much been the story of his United career over the past year or so and he is now set to leave on a permanent deal.
According to The Athletic‘s David Ornstein, the Manchester-born Iraqi international scouted by the Red Devils while playing for his local side, Sale United, is soon to depart Old Trafford for the Eredivisie side for just £855,000 (around €1 million) on a four-year contract with a “significant sell-on clause”.
However, the local lad still failed to make a single appearance under Erik ten Hag and was then left frustrated when the manager didn’t allow him to with the Iraq national team to the U20 World Cup which finished earlier this month, despite not being given any opportunities in the first-team.
And it is that fact that has left many United fans disappointed as despite crying to see more of him in the likes of the Europa League and domestic cup games, he is now about to leave his boyhood club without ever having got the chance to kick a ball at the senior level.
Becoming the latest academy prospect that fans once thought could have a big future to say goodbye, it has left many wondering whether it’s the right move and what could have been if he had been given a proper chance.
As you can see, beyond just the outgoing itself and the loss of a much-admired academy midfielder, one of the most concerning parts for many supporters is the money itself, with several noting that his reported fee is basically the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of Jadon Sancho‘s wages.
Moreover, although he may not have had the game time to prove himself on the pitch at the top level and potentially drive up his price, the likes of Man City have managed to move on promising youth players for significant money in the same situation.
When you break it down like that, it doesn’t make for great reading, does it?
He was obviously unproven in the Prem and had simply remained under that ‘one to watch’ status, but United’s heritage of bringing young players through and seeing the likes of Alejandro Garnacho thrive as he has this season understandably left some thinking the move is premature.
On the other hand, many fans are arguing that there was no standout reason to keep Iqbal at the club and that some of the response to his departure has been a bit of an overreaction, especially when considering the possibility of him continuing to sit on the bench and wasting prime years in his career.
Then again, that’s always the risk you take when you let a youth prospect go.
Nevertheless, Man United fans are still overwhelmingly wishing him the best for his move to the Netherlands where he’ll hopefully get plenty of first-team football. After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it?
As for Iqbal himself, there’s no question as to what representing the club meant to him and he’ll always be a significant part of the United’s history.
We always want to see Mancs do well — go and smash it, lad!
Manchester United issue response after banning Manchester Evening News and select journalists from press conference
The Manchester Evening News (MEN) along with a number of sports journalists have reportedly been banned from attending a Manchester United press conference after publishing a story on an apparent rift at the club, claiming that manager Erik ten Hag has ‘lost the dressing room’.
Citing the reason behind the ban as being due to Chief Man United Writer and well-known sports reporter, Samuel Luckhurst’s recent story, which claimed that ten Hag is “losing the confidence” of his players, he and at least three other journalists won’t be in attendance after Sky Sports went so far as to suggest as much as “50%” of the dressing room.
It is thought that Sky‘s chief reporter Kaveh Solekhol, David McDonnell of The Mirror and ESPN‘s Rob Dawson are among the other individuals to have been barred from joining this afternoon’s presser as per instruction from United‘s Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Andrew Ward.
Issuing a statement to The Manc and journalists across the country, the club said: “We’re taking action against a number of news organisations today, not for publishing stories we don’t like, but for doing so without contacting us first to give us the opportunity to comment, challenge or contextualise.
“We believe this is an important principle to defend and we hope it can lead to a re-set in the way we work together.” It is unclear how long the suspension is set to be upheld but it is likely they will only serve a one-match ban — pardon the pun.
The MEN reiterated that the initial story was “multiply-sourced”, adding that they had not been banned as a result of previous stories that were largely seen as critical of the Man United head coach and/or his squad, including prior claims players were starting to “doubt” his tactics and managerial style.
Furthermore, the outlet goes on to state that several other journalists have claimed they were prevented from asking questions in press conferences by Ward in the past “over perceived negative coverage”, adding that the club have expressed their “regret” over having to issue the ban. The move has been welcomed by many fans, with several saying it is reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s hardline approach to the media.
Man United have made one of their worst starts to a campaign in decades and, despite winning their first trophy in six years under the Dutchman with an EFL Cup win last season, have unfortunately been breaking all manner of unwanted records of late.
ten Hag’s team suffered another disappointing loss against Newcastle at the end of November and now face another tricky task as they prepare to face a Chelsea side who are starting to gather some semblance of form.
Countless Reds and neutrals alike will no doubt now be tuning in for his pre-match press conference at 1:30pm ahead of the mid-week Premier League fixture against the West Londoners on Wednesday night (8:15pm kick-off).
The former Ajax manager has made no secret of the troubles he faced when he first arrived at Old Trafford but is clearly keen to avoid others from airing any of their rumoured dirty laundry.
Featured Images — The Manc Group/Manchester United
Manchester United are once again opening up Old Trafford and Red Café for ‘Warm Hub’ evenings
Manchester United are once again opening their doors to people in need this winter as they kick off the 2023 season of ‘Warm Hub’ evenings at Old Trafford.
The community support initiative is returning after the success of last year’s campaign which welcomed locals through the doors to Man United’s iconic home ground and the attached Red Café, helping thousands stay warm, grab a hot drink and a snack, as well as socialise with others.
Focusing on those vulnerable during the colder months, as well as those who might feel worried or lonely during the festive period, United‘s Warm Hubs proved to be a truly impactful resource to many Mancunians in 2022 and will no doubt do the same this year.
Starting from Monday, 4 December and repeating every week right through until January, the area will be available to everyone and completely free, staying open from 5-8pm every session.
To sign up for the Warm Hub evenings — part of the wider ‘United By Your Side’ campaign — people can arrive at Old Trafford and register via the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand reception and will then be guided into the Red Café where they can grab a brew and something to eat.
Completely open to the public, the United Foundation will also be delivering a multi-layered approach to support the local community this time around, hoping to be an even more vital outlet to people around Greater Manchester than ever.
In addition to the obvious physical benefits of the warm space, the club want the ground to be a welcoming place for those looking for social connection over the holidays and beyond to spend time with others in friendly and safe surroundings.
As a charity supporting children and young people, the Foundation has focused its efforts on supporting families amidst the cost-of-living crisis after participants from its Youth Voice groups expressed concerns over being cold during the winter months.
As a result, the Foundation has now invested more than £100,000 in over 22,000 warm clothing items for every young person across its 77 partner schools in Greater Manchester and beyond, including hats, gloves, scarves, blankets and more.
These items have complemented the winter coats that were distributed earlier this year, following the matchday appeal that was held ahead of the Brentford fixture in October at Old Trafford — a brilliant drive that the club is also hoping to continue.
Donations from fans, club staff and men’s and women’s team players have also led to more than 2,000 coats being received, all of which have since been redistributed to identified families in need, local poverty charities and a charity in Ukraine. Heartwarming stuff.
Similarly, more than 200 shoeboxes – received thanks to Manchester United and Foundation staff – will be handed out to identified children as gifts ahead of the festive season.
Speaking on the return of the scheme, United’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Collette Roche, said: “We want people who are struggling to know that they are not alone, particularly in our local community…
“Sadly, we also know many of our young people will be facing challenges during the winter period and we hope by providing them with some warm winter clothing or a Christmas gift through the Foundation’s great work we will bring some joy and support to those in need.”
Children under 16 attending this year’s sessions must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 16. The last warm hub evening of 2023 will be taking place on 18 December and will resume again in the New Year from 8 January until the last Monday of the month (29 January).