Man Utd ready to unleash 'scouse Lionel Messi' as Erik ten Hag promotes next wonderkid

Erik ten Hag has promoted Shea Lacey to Man Utd training. (Image: Getty)

Manchester United could be about to open the gates to first-team football for the latest academy wonderkid after Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo’s successful breakthroughs. Shea Lacey – labelled by some supporters as the Scouse Lionel Messi – has been spotted in senior training just days before signing his first professional contract.

After becoming manager in 2022, Erik ten Hag vowed to try and promote at least one youth star into the United first team every season to continue the club’s proud traditions.

Garnacho completed his breakthrough in his maiden campaign, while Mainoo has been the shining light of a disappointing second season in charge.

Willy Kambwala has joined him as the latest permanent member of Ten Hag’s squad this term. The 19-year-old centre-back is in line for his second successive start against AFC Bournemouth on Saturday.

Omari Forson became the 249th United academy star to debut for the first team earlier in the campaign, and that tally will likely hit 250 before the summer.

Harry Amass is in with a shot after the highly-rated 17-year-old left-back made his first appearance in a matchday squad in Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

However, Lacey has been making waves at youth level for some time now, joining Amass as part of United’s dominant U18 team this season.

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Shea Lacey has been compared to Lionel Messi and Phil Foden. (Image: Getty)

The Liverpool-born attacker signed a scholarship deal last year, which included an agreement in principle to put pen to paper on a professional contract when he turns 17.

With his 17th birthday this Sunday, Ten Hag has moved to take a closer look at the wonderkid by adding him to first-team training ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth.

Lacey has been the subject of serious hype through a plethora of social media clips as he’s progressed through United’s youth set-up and now looks to be on the brink of his senior breakthrough.

His style of play has drawn regular comparisons to Manchester City superstar Phil Foden, one of the current frontrunners for the 2024 Ballon d’Or award, and his idol Messi, an eight-time recipient of the honour.

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He tends to drift in from the left and isn’t afraid to shoot or take on his man on the inside or outside, producing a variation of long-range and stunning solo goals throughout his young career so far.

Lacey comes from a family of Liverpool fans and has had heavyweight suitors during his time in United’s academy. However, he supports the club and is determined to realise a childhood dream.

The dynamic starlet, who can also be effective on the left and centrally, has been limited to eight appearances this season due to a lengthy injury.

But Ten Hag has fast-tracked him, and he is following U18 team-mates Amass, Bendito Mantato, and Amir Ibragimov in receiving a taste of the first-team environment.