Ethan Galbraith: 'He shone like a beacon' - Jim Magilton backs Man United's NI star for success

Galbraith in action for the Northern Ireland U19s in November 2018
Galbraith in action for the Northern Ireland U19s in November 2018

Manchester United players have a long history of making headlines at the Super Cup NI.

In 1991 (when it was called the Milk Cup), the Red Devils triumphed with a side which featured David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

In the near 30 years since, United have been one of the biggest draws at the annual youth tournament, living up to their reputation as leading developers of youth talent.

In 2014, Marcus Rashford stole the show while, in 2017, Mason Greenwood caught the eye in a win over Northern Ireland.

This year, a homegrown talent has assumed centre stage in Glengormley teenager Ethan Galbraith, who caught the eye for the Premier League giants at the Coleraine Showgrounds on Saturday night.

The 18-year-old midfielder scored a wonderful opening goal as United beat Rangers 4-0.

Galbraith exchanged passes with Aliou Traore, took a touch and curled a brilliant right-footed shot into the far corner to get United up and running in the seventh minute.

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United youngsters ease past Rangers

The goal encapsulated the former Linfield youth star's finest qualities - balance, vision and the ability to change the game in the blink of an eye.

With United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having already shown a willingness to field the club's rising stars, it's an exciting time for Galbraith.

But his upward trajectory in Manchester comes as no surprise to former NI international and U21 manager Jim Magilton, who was struck by the midfielder's technique and mentality when he first coached him as part of the Club NI programme.

"We first saw Ethan about five years ago and he shone like a beacon," said Irish FA Elite performance director Magilton.

"He was enthusiastic - a quiet boy until you got him on the park. He had this shock of blond hair, which stood out.

"It was his balance, the way he moved, with and without the ball. He had lovely technique and was very quick with the ball."

Ethan Galbraith
Galbraith in action for NI U17s against Spain at Mourneview Park

As well as possessing talent in abundance, Galbraith was, Magilton says, a keen student who always took on board the instructions of his coaches.

"He was a sponge when you spoke to him. He took the information in - for five years with us, he was a joy to work with, a brilliant kid who loves the game and wanted to be out on the pitch more than anything."

Of course, at a club like United, having the talent is only half the battle. Success at the highest level requires impeccable decision-making on the ball and that ability to execute time and time again.

"His decision-making will define that he will play at a high level," added Magilton, who invited a 16-year-old Galbraith to train with the NI U21s.

"Whether it's United or not, we don't know, but he can play at a high level. He knows how to create space when he's attacking, when to press, when to sit off. He has that decision-making on the ball.

"He went through a phase of overdoing it, overcooking it, but at United he's going to be taught about that."

Jim Magilton
Magilton helped bring Galbraith through the IFA's Club NI programme

Making the leap from Northern Ireland

Galbraith's path has been different to a player like Greenwood, who has been with United since the age of six.

The former Glengormley High School pupil did not get his chance to pursue full-time football until he was 16 and, while he is technically gifted, Magilton insists his future at Old Trafford will be shaped by how he copes with the pressure of being out of his comfort zone and away from home.

"For the boys from Northern Ireland to have a career in the professional game, they need to go to England or Scotland," the former Ipswich Town manager added.

"With that, there are a lot of insecurities, a lot goes through the mind. If you're going over there at 16, you're taking the place of someone's mate, who was at that club, so it's not going to be pats on the back.

"If he continues to develop in the way we saw on Saturday, he has a wonderful platform to go on and become a great player. He's always been a magnificent prospect so now you hope he goes on to have a career in the game."

There is still a long way to go but, judging by how Galbraith has conducted himself so far, the future looks bright for the teenager.

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