Manchester United's Angel Gomes, 18, ignoring hype; 'Old Trafford is the dream'

Rob DawsonManchester United correspondent5 Minute Read

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MANCHESTER, England -- Angel Gomes has refused to get carried away amid the hype of a promising future at Manchester United, saying that he knows maintaining his focus will help him succeed long-term at the club.

Gomes, who turned 18 at the end of August, became United's youngest debutant since Duncan Edwards in 1953 when he came on against Crystal Palace on the final day of the 2016-17 season.

The forward is among United's top bracket of prospects, joining Tahith Chong, Ethan Laird, James Garner and Mason Greenwood.

"I've got to put that [expectation] to one side," Gomes told ESPN FC. "The best players get to the top because they have stayed level-headed. I've got to carry on working hard and keep putting everything in to training and games."

Speaking after United's under-23s defeated Stoke City 1-0 at Old Trafford, Gomes only fuelled the anticipation with a curled finish into the far corner from the left edge of the penalty area to win the game.

The 37th-minute goal, his third for the U23s this season, happened to come on his 18th birthday -- and with Jose Mourinho watching from the stands.

"It wasn't a bad goal to score in front of him," Gomes said. "I'm happy to get a goal on my birthday and it was a nice feeling to be able to celebrate in front of my family and friends. The most important thing is the three points and we're just happy to keep progressing in the league."

Manchester United's Angel Gomes.Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Gomes, born in London but raised in Salford, has represented England at youth level from U16 to U19 and was part of the U17 squad that won the World Cup last year. He was also one of six starters against Stoke who travelled with the senior team for the summer tour of the United States.

Ro-Shaun Williams, James Garner, Ethan Hamilton, Joshua Bohui, Chong and Gomes were used sparingly by Mourinho, but Gomes believes they returned from the two-week trip better players.

Away from the training pitch, it was a chance to see how players such as Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata spend their down time as well as navigating numerous commercial and media duties.

"It was a great experience," said Gomes, whose father, Gil, was a Portugal U23 international and whose godfather is Nani, the former United winger. "Just being around the first team, seeing how they train and being able to pick up little things, it's positive."

He added: "Going on tour was an added bonus for the younger players. Even if you don't get as many minutes, you're in the manager's eyesight and he can see how you train, how you prepare and he can compare you to the first team players. Going to the U.S. was about trying to progress and show him what you're capable of."

Having made two first-team appearances, and with nine academy players out on loan this season, Gomes is one of the more experienced players for U23s coach Ricky Sbragia.

Captain Regan Poole, 20, got a minute of first-team football under Louis van Gaal in 2016 and is the only other player with senior experience.

"There are younger players that I'm close to, but obviously, when you go up with the first team, you're not around them as much," Gomes said. "When you're playing with them, you're giving advice where you can because of the experiences you've got from the older players and trying to pass messages on and help them."

Manchester United's Angel Gomes.Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

By his own admission, Gomes, who only recently graduated from the U18s, is still learning to cope with the style and physicality of the under-23 level.

For example, Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam, 32, played in the game against Gomes and United at Old Trafford.

"These games are tough," Gomes said. "I'm trying to get minutes in. I'm playing every week and hopefully, it will help me get better.

"Last season didn't go how I wanted it to and I struggled a bit with injuries. I'm finally back and finding my feet, gaining more confidence and scoring goals again. I'm happy with how things have gone so far and I need to keep it up."

Gomes signed his first professional contract in December -- amid interest from Barcelona -- and remains on the cusp of Mourinho's squad.

His ambition is to make his career at United, who he joined when he was 6.

"It's a great club," he said. "Playing at Old Trafford is the dream. It's the main aim. As long as I can carry on getting better and impressing, hopefully, in the future, I can get a chance."