There have not been many occasions in recent years where Manchester United have parted with a transfer fee to sign a player from the English Football League.
With the exception of signing of Daniel James from Swansea City in June 2019 and Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra in the same month back in 2012, United have preferred the Hollywood additions, opposed to scouring the lower reaches of the English football pyramid for that next hidden gem.
When you take into account just how many youngsters have made the leap from United’s academy to the first-team fold in recent years, such as the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga to name just a handful, the club’s apparent reluctance to dive deeper for promising talent does come as a surprise.
The likes of Liverpool and West Ham United, for example, have tested the water with Championship talent in recent years and it has either paid off of already or it is certainly threatening to. Jarrod Bowen has adapted to Premier League life with ease at West Ham and is now in pursuit of his first England call-up, whilst Harvey Elliott, who swapped Fulham for Anfield at the age of just 16-years-old, is threatening to become a superstar, with only a recent serious ankle injury hampering his progress.
Although the challenge remains apparent, more and more players, slowly but surely, are beginning to find the jump from the Championship to the Premier League that little bit easier, highlighting how talented a division the Championship has become.
With that said, United, despite being well-stocked in attack, certainly in wide areas, ought to consider taking a leaf out of Liverpool’s and West Ham’s book and consider looking at talent within the Championship that are threatening to break the seal and burst into the Premier League to make a name for themselves at one of England’s elite clubs.
Currently, United would do well to find a better young talent within the Championship than Nottingham Forest starlet Brennan Johnson. The 20-year-old, who plays, predominantly, as a right-sided winger, but can also play as a central striker if required, is one of the hottest, if not the hottest property that the second-tier of English football currently have to shout about.
Rooted to the foot of the Championship table when Steve Cooper was installed as Forest’s new manager in late-September, Johnson has played an inspired role in helping the Midlands outfit climb into the play-off places, scoring eight goals and claiming five assists, as well as helping them dump both Arsenal and Leicester City out of the FA Cup on route to the fifth-round.
Johnson, who has already earned seven senior caps for his native Wales, is on a sharp trajectory and his ceiling his unthinkable, highlighted by his tally of 41 direct goal contributions since the start of last season, 27 of which came on loan at Lincoln City last term
Whilst his goals and assists tallies make for highly impressive viewing, his all-round game, not least his dribbling ability and raw pace, is a sight to behold, meaning all of the pointers suggest that he is a Premier League player in waiting.
Forest’s supporters idolize him and worship the ground he walks on – and understandably so. He is a star in the making and has embarrassed and toyed with his opponents this season, just as he did to Leicester last weekend in the FA Cup.
While it may not be a top priority for United to strengthen their options out wide right now, the pathway has already been set for Johnson to light up the Premier League in the not too distant future, whether it be with Forest or someone else, given that Brentford were very keen on snapping him up during the January transfer window.
But United’s ties with the Johnson family could sway their thinking. That is because the Forest winger’s father, David, was a youth player for United many moons ago and the 20-year-old is supported by a ‘godfather like figure’ in the shape of Reds legend David Beckham, who learned his trade with Johnson Snr. The former England captain has openly praised Johnson on social media in the past, as recently as last month, highlighting how aware and in awe he is of his talent and potential.
Of course Beckham has no say in United’s direction or their recruitment plans, but the former Reds man is more than qualified enough to spot a talented player when he sees one developing.
Admittedly, many youngsters have made the jump from the Championship to the Premier League too soon after just a handful of promising, eye-catching displays.
Johnson, however, has displayed the consistency levels that suggest he has the potential to make the grade at Premier League level.
He is an outstanding talent and United could regret not pursuing his signature.
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