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Man United man spotted with new shirt number in pre-season pic after Ten Hag called him ‘brilliant’

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When a youth team player is spotted with a new shirt number, that is usually a sign that a promotion may be on the way.

Take Kobbie Mainoo, for instance. The jewel in Carrington’s crown made his debut under Erik ten Hag in the 2022/23 season wearing number 73. He swapped that figure around last summer, however, making himself indispensable to Manchester United’s cause with the 37 on his back.

Now, it is Willy Kambwala’s turn for a shirt number upgrade.

The 19-year-old centre-half caught the eye during the odd appearance in Ten Hag’s starting XI last term. Particularly during that 2-2 draw with Liverpool, shining at one end as Mainoo scored a stunner at the other.

Kambwala wore the 53 shirt in the previous campaign.

In the next one, however, it appears he may be donning 32, eagle-eyed Man United supporters spotting a new number on Kambwala’s training gear as the Red Devils returned to training on Monday.

  • READ MORE: Who is Kobbie Mainoo? Inside the life of Man Utd’s rising star, including his parents, brother and school

(EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE)  Andre Onana, Willy Kambwala of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground...

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Manchester United starlet gets new shirt number

Interestingly, the number 32 shirt has been vacant for some time.

Manchester United’s squad number history shows it was most recently worn by goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in the 2016/17 season. Previous wearers of the shirt include ex-Barcelona shot-stopper Victor Valdes and Champions League winning centre-forward Carlos Tevez.

Ten Hag, meanwhile, has been glowing in his praise of Kambwala.

“He has been training a while with us and progressing well,” Ten Hag told BBC Sport after that exceptional display against Liverpool at the start of April.

“The next generation need to step in and he is doing brilliant. The challenge for him is doing it consistently. Today, he deserved (his chance) and he showed (his abilities) on the pitch.”

Kambwala, who captained France at Under 16 level, joined Man United from Sochaux back in 2020.

He made 10 first-team appearances last term, his pace and excellent reading of the game marking out Kambwala as the next Carrington graduate to potentially follow in the footsteps of Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho.

The departure of compatriot Raphael Varane – who’s contract expired at the start of July – should also open the door for further opportunities regardless of Matthijs de Ligt’s impending arrival from Bayern Munich.

Bigger role awaits for Willy Kambwala

“He is showing his qualities,” Varane, who looks set to continue his career in Serie A with newly-promoted Como, told Man United’s website of his young protege.

“I think he will play more matches in the future and continue to improve. He is very young, but he is showing his qualities and we trust him.

“He has a great future.”

Man United, meanwhile, have a number of shirt numbers to fill ahead of the next campaign.

De Ligt, who the Daily Mail say is closing in on a potential £43 million arrival from the Bundesliga giants, may be a prime candidate to take number three or potentially the number four shirt vacated by former loanee Sofyan Amrabat.

Manuel Ugarte may also have his sights on four; United reportedly submitting a £38 million bid for the Paris Saint-Germain enforcer, per Le10 Sport.

Joshua Zirkzee, meanwhile, could become the Red Devils’ next number nine when he completes his move from Bologna.

  • READ: Who is Joshua Zirkzee? Meet the 6’4″ Man Utd summer target who reminds Thiago Motta of Ronaldinho

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