Reece Oxford
Reece Oxford has put pen to paper on a new long-term contract at West Ham Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Highly-rated young defender Reece Oxford has rejected interest from a number of Premier League heavyweights, including Manchester United, by pledging his future to West Ham United. The England U20 international, who turned 18 today (16 December), has signed a new four-and-a-half year contract that will keep him at London Stadium until the summer of 2021.

Oxford joined the Hammers' academy five years ago and later beat Billy Williams' long-standing record as the youngest first-team player in club history after being handed his senior debut in a Europa League qualifying tie against Andorran minnows FC Lusitanos aged 16 years and 198 days. He also demonstrated his impressive versatility by shielding Slaven Bilic's back four in a midfield holding role after surprisingly featuring in last season's Premier League opener – a 2-0 away win at Arsenal.

The Londoner went on to make 12 appearances in total and captained West Ham's development side to Premier League U21 Cup glory, before being rewarded for a fine breakthrough campaign with the Young Hammer of the Year award. Oxford's only two appearances to date this term came in European ties against NK Domzale and Astra Giurgiu back in August. He has been sidelined for the last six weeks with an ankle ligament injury.

"I am happy to have signed my new contract," the player told West Ham's official website. "There was a lot of speculation about my future but I am happy that it has been done and I can get back to football. I just want to kick on now. I have made my family proud and hopefully I have made the fans proud that I have signed a new contract. Hopefully I can get into the team and help them throughout the whole season.

"I have a good relationship with the gaffer and hopefully I can get a lot of game time here. I have seen some of the old players like Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand and I want to follow in their footsteps. Hopefully, I can become just as big as them or even bigger. Hopefully, I can step out and follow what they have achieved."

Oxford's swift progression has unsurprisingly seen him attract attention from a host of bigger clubs. The Daily Mail reported in July that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho had him scouted at this summer's European Under-19 Championship in Germany, while Manchester City are also said to have watched him closely in the past. According to The Sun, Arsenal had maintained an interest ever since his impressive maiden top-flight appearance at the Emirates Stadium last August.

Oxford had only two years left to run on his previous contract and it was claimed in May that he had rejected the offer of an extension. He subsequently rubbished those suggestions with a mocking tweet that stated "rumours will be rumours".