There hasn’t been this much excitement about a crop of young footballers in Manchester since the Class of ’92.
At the forefront of this wave of optimism are two players born in 1997- Gabriel Jesus and Marcus Rashford.
One is a local lad. The other is a multi-million pound export. But both are carrying the hopes and dreams of a city.
So how do Rashford and Jesus compare?
Rise to prominence
Rashford followed the well trodden path from Fletcher Moss Rangers- responsible for the formative years of Wes Brown, Ravel Morrison and Tyler Blackett- to United’s academy.
He impressed quietly with the Under-18s and Under-21s, without ever tearing up trees, before Louis van Gaal surprisingly handed him a first-team debut, much to the surprise of those outside of Old Trafford.
Jesus’ emergence wasn’t quite as sharp, thanks in part to 37 goals for Palmeiras in the Under-17 championships which brought national attention.
While he was polished in the professional academy set-up it was on the streets of Jardim Peri, Sao Paulo, that Jesus learned the footballing mischeif synoymous with so many great Brazilian strikers.
When Anthony Martial pulled out of United’s crunch Europa League second leg against Midtjylland, to be replaced by Rashford, few would have been brave enough to predict what happened next.
Ninety minutes later Rashford had broken a record previously held by George Best, with two goals making him United’s youngest European goalscorer.
Palmeiras teased Jesus’ first-team debut when he remained an unuses sub in the 2014 Copa do Brasil.
Seven months later he finally got onto the pitch, playing the last 17 minutes of a 1-0 win against Sao Paulo minnows Atletico Bragantino.
Rashford’s first internaitional nod came as part of Kenny Swain’s Under-16 side in 2012, alongside the likes of Dominic Solanke and Patrick Roberts, with Under-18 and Under-20 caps following in the next four years.
He then made the peculiar step of playing for the England senior side before the Under-21s, scoring against Australia after just three minutes.
Even against the backdrop of England’s disastrous performance at Euro 2016 Rashford managed to boost his reputation.
Jesus also graduated through the ranks, representing Brazil at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup before going on to wing gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Like Rashford, Jesus’ Brazil debut was also a goalscoring one. Jesus scored two goals in three minutes as Brazil beat Ecuador, ensuring the hype around him was ramped up a notch.
Competition for places
So what does the future hold for both Rashford and Jesus?
Much will depend on the future of of their team-mates- Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero.
Ibrahimovic’s injury should give Rashford a chance to shine up front, rather than in a subservient role out wide.
Jesus’ path is less clear. Despite being benched upon Jesus’ arrival, Aguero’s recent form has been nothing short of exceptional.
Getting ahead of Aguero in the pecking order would be an achievement in itself. Manchester awaits.