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Who is Ethan Wheatley? Everything You Need to Know About Teenage Man United Record Setter: Salary, Shirt Number, More

Who is Ethan Wheatley? Everything You Need to Know About Teenage Man United Record Setter: Salary, Shirt Number, More

Ethan Wheatley made his Manchester United debut at a point when the match against Sheffield United was already sealed by a 4-2 margin. However, he would go on to etch his name into the club’s history books after stepping into Old Trafford pitch.

The 18-year-old became the 250th Manchester United youth academy graduate to have played for the senior team. This is a remarkable achievement for a club that has always emphasized on using youth players and had at least one youth team graduate in their squad in every game since 1937. Wheatley, on a meagre £220-a-week (£11,440) salary, was definitely dwarfed among the senior players in terms of their riches and experience – but made up with his vibrant playing style.

The youngster put in an energetic display and is likely to get more appearances if he can maintain the upward trajectory over his development. Wheatley actually only joined the Red Devils in 2022 as a 16-year-old, having played the majority of his youth years in Stockport – where he was born and raised.

At just 5’7’, Wheatley isn’t exactly the most well-built centre-forward. But he makes up for what is missing in his height with majestic work using his feet. The 18-year-old is blessed with pace and has that predatorial instinct on when to pounce on the end of goal-scoring opportunities. Right after joining the Red Devils’ youth structure in 2022, he was immediately thrown into playing for their under-18 team – scoring five goals in a difficult first season.

But it is the 2023/24 campaign when Wheatley has really started flourishing. The Manchester United coaches decided to have his alternative between the under-18 and under-21 teams, ensuring that never grew comfortable and was competing against more difficult opposition. That didn’t really hold him back as Wheatley impressed on both levels.

As a result, the Red Devils decided to tie him down to his first professional contract after he turned 18 in January 2024. His agents, the CAA Stellar agency (which also represents the likes of Jack Grealish and Ivan Toney) ironed out the details with the club quickly to ensure he could seamlessly continue his development without having to think about contracts.

The teenager started getting better as the season progressed and was especially prolific for the under-18s Manchester United side that won the U-18 Premier League title. He scored eight goals and provided two assists in seven appearances, which included a sensational hattrick in a 9-1 battering of Liverpool U-18 – in which he cheekily replicated Wayne Rooney’s ‘boxing celebration’.  This was actually as ‘revenge’ for a Liverpool academy player Luca Furnell-Gill punching him in a previous fixture.

It was after his awe-inspiring performance against Liverpool that Erik ten Hag saw fit to bring him into his first-team squad. He had been training with the senior team for a while before the gaffer decided to give three youth team stars, including Wheatley, a chance to be in his injury-ravaged squad.

Wheatley received the opportunity to travel to Wembley as Manchester United barely defeated Coventry City to move into the FA Cup final. Two days after being an unused substitute in the game, he appeared for the under-18 side to score a brace in a win over Manchester City in the U-18 Premier League Cup final. A day after that, on April 24, his fairytale story hit a crescendo in the form of a senior debut.

For the 18-year-old, who is currently still pursuing his education at the Manchester Grammer School, this ‘upgrade’ from the youth level to the senior level has been intense but one he hasn’t been overwhelmed by.

Manchester United’s head of education, Ian Smithson, opened up on Wheatley’s mentality in playing across multiple levels for the club and still pursuing his education: “He scored four for the under-18s on Saturday, played for -21s on Monday and was then pulled to play with the first team. He has one day off but requested if he could come in this morning to finish his last assignment.”

After making his debut for the Red Devils’ senior team, Wheatley will definitely have his eyes upon an international career too. He has already made his debut for the England under-17 team and will of course envision a future with the Three Lions. However, Wheatley can actually also play for the Malaysian national team as his grandparents are from Malaysia, something he revealed last year: “Yes, my grandmother was born and raised in Selangor. However, she moved to England at a young age. When I was little, our family often vacationed in Kuala Lumpur.”

Wheatley, a natural centre-forward, has also had a curious history with his shirt number. He wore the no.84 shirt in his senior debut for the Red Devils. This is the same number he donned for United’s under-18 team earlier this season, before transitioning into a no.16 and then a no.9. For their under-21 side, he has worn the no.14, no.12 before settling on the no.10 shirt. Knowing his ambitions, the 18-year-old will have long-term goals to make that Manchester United no.9 shirt his own in the near future.

Wheatley might’ve earned a special place in Manchester United lore by becoming the 250th youth graduate to play for the senior team, but this is only the start. It’s now upon the vibrant young centre-forward to ensure that he doesn’t go down in history as a meagre trivia question and uses this record as a motivational factor to become a key part of the United squad for the next decade and make himself an undroppable figure in the long-run for the Red Devils.