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Who is Shea Lacey? The Man United Phenom with Phil Foden-like Potential: Salary, Brothers, More

Who is Shea Lacey? The Man United Phenom with Phil Foden-like Potential: Salary, Brothers, More

Manchester United’s under-18 team recently helped themselves go viral with a stunning 9-1 win over Liverpool U18s. But an exquisite young talent that didn’t even feature in that monumental result was the brilliant young winger Shea Lacey.

The 16-year-old has drawn comparisons to Phil Foden and Lionel Messi due to his structure and playing style. At a meagre 5’7, he is definitely shorter than the average Premier League footballer – but makes up with his exquisite dribbling skills and creativity. Lacey has also managed to catch Erik ten Hag’s eye and was recently promoted to train with the first-team squad.

The teenager is still paid a youth player’s wages at Old Trafford. He is currently on just £60-a-week or £3,120-a-year. In comparison, the Red Devils’ lowest-paid senior player – the exceptional Kobbie Mainoo – is paid £10,000-a-week currently – almost three times more than what Lacey is getting a year.

Lacey was reported to have signed his first professional deal with United last year. But with English football rules not permitting players to sign pro deals before turning 17, it’s likelier that the Englishman has just pre-agreed to the contract – which will be signed soon after he turns 17 on April 14, 2024.

Well, considering the kind of ‘promotions’ he’s receiving, Lacey’s agents the Triple S agency – which represents Wayne Rooney as well as Harry Maguire – should probably do a better job in negotiating a pay raise for him soon.

Like Rooney, Lacey hails from Liverpool – England and started playing football at the age of three. He grew up in a family of Liverpool supporters but became a die-hard Manchester United fan ever since he started understanding football. He comes from a football-crazy family and is part of three brothers (Shea, Paddy and Luis) who are all footballers. His elder brother Paddy Lacey, is a former footballer with a controversial past.

Paddy had played at the academy level for Manchester United and Liverpool, but failed to prove his quality. He spent most of his professional career in lower-league football. In 2017, Paddy saw his contract with Accrington Stanley terminated after he admitted to have used cocaine. A month later, he was arrested for possession of cocaine and MDMA – for which he had to serve a 16-month prison sentence.

Paddy returned to football after serving his prison sentence, mostly playing Non-League football and is now also a pro boxer – winning all 10 of his bouts so far. However, Paddy played a key role in ensuring his younger brother got the perfect football education and in him joining the Red Devils’ academy over Liverpool’s.

Paddy explained what convinced him and his father to enrol Shea into the United academy when he was just around five years of age, detailing to the Manchester Evening News: “I was originally at Tranmere Rovers, then I went into Liverpool’s and Man United’s academies and kind of had to pick between a few clubs. It was under Rene Meulensteen and Mark Dempsey back in those days. I was 11 or 12 and my dad was impressed with the coaching. In my group, it was the likes of Ravel Morrison, Jesse Lingard, Ryan Tunnicliffe, a special group and the coaching was great.

“I stayed there for about a month and then I went to Liverpool, so it was decision time, and my dad was saying Man United was the best place for me but I’m a Liverpool fan, so as a 12-year-old, the decision was a no brainer. Their coaching was a lot more basic, you didn’t get room to develop as a player, so when my two little brothers were good enough, my dad never allowed them to make the decision. They got taken straight down the M62 to Manchester United.”

Soon after joining the Red Devils, Shea started enjoying the idea facilities and world-class training methods to hone his skills. He kept impressing at their United youth academy before being promoted to the under-18s squad at the age of 15, after impressing for the England under-15 side.

Lacey has since made 18 appearances the Red Devils’ U18 team and managed 10 goal contributions (five goals, five assists). He’s had his share of injuries to trouble him in last year, but is still regarded highly within those at Old Trafford. The 16-year-old is naturally a right-winger who loves to cut in from the wide areas to cause havoc – like Foden or Lionel Messi. He can also play as an attacking midfielder or a left-winger if necessary.

Shea is a free-kick specialist and a number of clips of his exquisite dead-ball expertise have gone viral in recent years too. He has earned a lot of popularity among the fans for his exciting playing style and the kind of Messi-esque goals scored at the youth level.

But Paddy feels that the Manchester United youth coaches played a key role in encouraging this expressive, fearless playing style of his brother. He explained: “But it always just seemed like the session was all about Shea. He’d be dribbling through the team and you’d kind of feel bad for the other parents, thinking, ‘Bloody hell, Shea, give someone else a touch’, but Man United were big on letting him have it.

“They wanted him to master the ball, to be able to find his way out of trouble. They let you learn for yourself about the times to pass before you lose the ball. The players that don’t learn get left by the wayside and it hasn’t half helped Shea. My dad always knew he was a little different. He just seems to be progressing fantastically with United and their coaches, year after year. We come in for meetings every year and we haven’t had a bad meeting since he was five.”

Shea, who has donned shirt numbers 7, 10 and 11 for the Red Devils’ under-18 side – actually justifies that by being able to play in either of the roles. He’s unlikely to get his breakthrough in the senior team anytime soon and Ten Hag probably just called him up for training to fill the numbers and increase competitiveness amid his side’s injury issues.

But the sheer quality that the 16-year-old has displayed with his performances for the youth sides means that if he can stay away from injuries and stay focused, then Shea might follow the road of Kobbie Mainoo and be the next big thing for United in 2025.