Manchester United have never been shy of nurturing young talent, with some of the Premier League’s greats having emerged from within the Red Devils’ ranks.
The Red Devils have had some success with young signings this season, with summer arrivals Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James both making major impacts on the first team, despite the latter making the step up from the Championship.
It appears United are at it again, with Sky Sports reporting (via The Sun) that Stoke defender Nathan Collins now being scouted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s backroom staff after an impressive season in the Championship. So…wait, who?
He’s Irish Born and Bred
The 18-year-old centre-back grew up in the Republic of Ireland, beginning his youth career with Cherry Orchard and quickly rising through the ranks. As a no-nonsense 6’5 defender, Collins became a highly sought after individual, eventually being scouted by Tony Bowen before joining Stoke City in January 2016.
Collins has plenty of experience with Ireland’s international youth setup, featuring 20 times for the Under-17’s before earning four appearances for the Under-20s.
Okay, he may not be the son of Roy or Robbie Keane, but there is a fair amount of footballing blood in Collins’ family.
His father Dave was a footballer during the 1980s and 90s, and was on the books at Liverpool for four years – although he never played for the club, being loaned out to Wigan before making 41 appearances for Oxford United.
You would imagine, given how highly he’s regarded at Stoke, that Nathan is already on his way to eclipsing his family’s footballing achievements.
Making an Impact
While Collins is yet to be a regular starter for the Potters, he’s readily featuring more and more in Michael O’Neill’s first team. If it hadn’t been for injury and suspension, the young defender may have made an even greater impact for Stoke’s senior team this season.
Collins has featured 12 times in all competitions this term – alongside his commitments with the reserves – and has been impressive when called upon.
Youngest Stoke Captain
Collins became the youngest Stoke player to have ever captained the club earlier in the campaign, being given the armband during the team’s Carabao Cup clash with Wigan in August.
Not only did the 18-year-old hold his nerve on the biggest stage of his career, he scored the winner in a narrow 1-0 victory, sending the Championship side in to the next round of the cup.
Clearly trusted by the decision makers at Stoke, Collins’ leadership qualities will make him an even more desirable asset for a team like United, who are lacking in leaders throughout the club. While a move to Old Trafford would nowhere near guarantee an immediate route in to United’s first team, such a strong character would prove useful for the future of the 13-time Premier League champions.
Recently Signed a Long-Term Deal at Stoke
Of course United will have more than enough money to prise Collins away from the Midlands, but his newly-signed five-year contract with the club may make a deal slightly more difficult.
He’s tied to the club until 2024, perhaps enabling the club to raise their asking price for the highly-coveted teenager.