Manchester United clinched their second successive Under-21 league title last night (19 April) with a 3-2 triumph against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The Reds initially squandered a two-goal lead in north London, before sealing victory through a last-ditch strike from Guillermo Varela.
United's under-pressure boss Louis van Gaal has already given first-team opportunities to a number of young players who starred for the under-21s this season, including Varela and Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira. But which of the Reds' lesser-known young talents could emerge as potential stars in the coming months? IBTimes UK has taken a closer look at some of the U21 players ready to make the breakthrough.
Although Daley Blind and Chris Smalling have formed an effective partnership at the heart of the United defence, there is a widespread belief that Louis van Gaal − or whoever manages the Reds next season − will look to make central defensive reinforcements over the summer.
Alternatively, the United boss could turn to 17-year-old defender Ro-Shaun Williams, who is known as being one of the quickest players in English football. Indeed, the highly-rated centre-half broke Darren Campbell's 100-metre record at Ashton-upon-Mersey school, which had stood for 25 years.
Williams has made impressive progress over the last couple of years and has been tipped to make his first-team debut next season, having recently been named on the bench for the club's FA Cup quarter-final with West Ham United.
With David De Gea rumoured to be on his way out of Old Trafford in the summer, there could well be an opening between the goals at Manchester United in the coming months. And in 19-year-old shot-stopper Joel Pereira, the Reds may already have the man to replace the improbably-good Spaniard.
Pereira signed for United in 2012, from Swiss club Neuchâtel Xamax, and has made seamless progress through the club's youth ranks. He is now firmly established as the first-choice keeper at under-21 level and was named on the bench for United's 5-1 win over FC Midtjylland in the Europa League.
Pereira signed a new contract at Old Trafford last year and will be keen to make his first-team breakthrough in 2016.
The current United first-team has been widely criticised for showing a lack of character at different stages this season, but in Axel Tuanzebe the Reds have a young player who is happy to assume responsibility. The 18-year-old centre-half was made captain of the Under-18 team when he was a first-year scholar and his obvious leadership skills have been praised by Academy adviser Les Kershaw.
"He's a very, very good player," Kershaw told United's official website. "And is one of them that I really like because he has a strong personality."
Tuanzebe faces stiff competition from his centre-back partner Ro-Shaun Williams and Timothy Fosu-Mensah for a first-team place, but has always shown the right attitude during his progression through the club's ranks.
Louis van Gaal is a self-confessed fan of multi-functional players and in Joe Riley, the Dutchman has a young player who could perform a number of different roles at first-team level. The 19-year-old can play at full-back, central midfield or on the wings, meaning he could become a valuable squad player next season.
Riley was called up by Van Gaal for the club's FA Cup win over Shrewsbury in February and has been one of the under-21's most consistent performers this season, following Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's promotion to the first-team squad.
Sadiq El Fitouri
Libya international Sadiq El Fitouri has taken a convoluted route to Old Trafford, which has seen him be rejected by Manchester City before he was famously spotted by United's so-called Class of 92 while he was training with Salford City.
The right-back, who is now 21, was pulled to one side by joint owners Phil Neville and Paul Scholes during a Salford training session and invited to a trial with United. El Fitouri signed a professional contract with the club in 2015 and has since gone on to win back-to-back Under-21 titles.