Bruno Fernandes reserved special praise for ‘top kid’ Anthony Elanga following Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, saying the youngster ‘gave everything’ and fully ‘deserved his chance’.
Academy product Elanga was handed his first start of the Premier League season at Villa Park and the 19-year-old more than repaid Ralf Rangnick’s faith with an all-action performance down the left flank.
The Red Devils had looked to be cruising towards three valuable points in the race for a top-four finish as Fernandes completed his double to give the visitors a two-goal advantage midway through the second half.
But Jacob Ramsey pulled a goal back for Villa in the 77th minute before assisting debutant Philippe Coutinho with a pinpoint cross just moments later to send the Holte End into raptures.
Elanga was replaced by Jadon Sancho with 12 minutes remaining of the contest, but the teenager was undoubtedly one of United’s few shining lights on an otherwise disappointing evening away from home.
‘I said it last season already, Anthony is a kid that works hard and is prepared to be in the team, prepared to play,’ Fernandes told MUTV shortly after the final whistle.
‘He’s being a top kid, waiting for his moment, training really hard and he deserved the chance that he got today.
‘He was, for me, one of the best on the pitch. He gave everything.
‘I said to him that my goal started from his header because he won the header. It seems like nothing, but these are really important moments in the games.
‘We are really happy for him because he deserved his chance.’
Elanga impressed Rangnick with his committed display and the Sweden Under-21 international will no doubt be desperate to continue his run in the side away to Brentford on Wednesday night.
‘He had a good game and he showed exactly those things that I expected him to show and why I decided to play him from the start,’ United’s interim manager said.
‘He not only worked hard for the team defensively, he also had two or three good – if not great – opportunities to score himself.
‘He confirmed his nomination from the beginning.’