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Who is Zidane Iqbal, Manchester United’s headline-grabbing starlet

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Zidane Iqbal has been making headlines for all the right reasons after excelling on Manchester United’s pre-season tour this summer.

However, there is still so much to learn about the 19-year-old starlet who has already won the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful.

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The teenage midfielder was introduced to United fans last season when he made his professional Champions League debut in a 1-1 draw with Young Boys in December. However, little came of his cameo.

Zidane Iqbal excelled for Manchester United on their pre-season tour this summer

Nevertheless, United have taken the decision to hand Iqbal a new long-term contract which will keep him at Old Trafford until 2025. A decision which is now considered music to the ears of United fans after seeing him on tour this summer.

The 19-year-old didn’t look out of place as he took on Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita in Man United’s 4-0 win over Liverpool.

Iqbal also showed his impressive skills in the second half of the Red Devils game against Melbourne Victory in Australia. One particular move just before the hour mark even ended up going viral.

He also gained international recognition, playing for the Iraqi national team in World Cup qualifiers against Iran and Lebanon off the bench.

As a result, Sportsmail has gathered all the much-needed details about the player and pulled out the original information you’ve been dying to know.

Where is Iqbal hiding?

Iqbal may be seen as Manchester United’s shiny new toy, but the 19-year-old actually joined the Red Devils aged nine in 2012. However, playing for the first team before reaching double digits n wasn’t exactly on the cards.

As a result, he plied his trade in the academy setup before making his first-team debut in United’s 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the Champions League last season.

Iqbal – who was given the green light alongside Robbie Savage’s son Charlie – flew under the radar for the rest of the 2021-22 campaign, but burst onto the scene this summer after excelling on the tour of United’s pre-season.

Iqbal was made his first-team debut by Ralf Rangnick in Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the Champions League last season (above)

Iqbal was made his first-team debut by Ralf Rangnick in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the Champions League last season (above)

What makes Iqbal so special and is he worth the hype?

A lot of young players get fired up after a few good performances and eventually disappear from the radar. So these cynics asked what makes Iqbal special?

It’s a reasonable question to ask and one that I will answer as best I can. Iqbal is a box-to-box midfielder who knows how to connect with forwards and bring his fellow midfielders into the game.

Iqbal likes to operate from a forward position – delivering balls into wide areas for wingers to run over. He also uses his impressive skills to beat players in the middle of the park before shooting forward.

Iqbal is known (well, as famous as you can be at 18) for being a natural risk taker. His flair has allowed him to unlock some of the best defenses in the world. A characteristic that you have or that you do not have!

However, what makes Iqbal so special is his decisiveness and composure in tight spaces. He has the ability to go forward and launch an attack, but he also knows when to keep the ball and build a play.

That being said, Iqbal must learn to ‘show up’ every game after disappearing into the background in Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

The 19-year-old came off the bench in the 66th minute of the game but didn’t do much in influence play.

Iqbal is a box to box midfielder who knows how to connect with forwards and bring his fellow midfielders into the game.  He also has an extensive skill set which makes him dangerous.

Iqbal is a box to box midfielder who knows how to connect with forwards and bring his fellow midfielders into the game. He also has an extensive skill set which makes him dangerous.

Iqbal’s favorite position and who’s at risk next year

So where can we expect to see Iqbal play next season? And who could he kick out of the current Manchester United squad? Well, Iqbal’s favorite position is in No.10 but he’s versatile and open to changes.

Speaking to United during the Red Devils’ pre-season tour, Iqbal said: “I don’t mind playing in a double pivot, as a No.10 or on the wing, wherever the manager ask me to play.

“When I was younger I played as a No.10, but over time you adapt your game a bit more. But if it’s the wing, or anywhere, I don’t mind as long as I’m in the field.

Fans have already hinted that Fred and Scott McTominay could be at risk next season as they believe Iqbal and Savage’s partnership is beneficial for Manchester United.

Is it true that Iqbal is like a mini Frenkie de Jong?

Erik ten Hag has struggled to make any real progress when it comes to securing Frenkie de Jong’s services this summer. But, fear not United fans as Iqbal is similar to the Barcelona midfielder in more ways than one.

Iqbal – just like De Jong – slides on the pitch and makes running the ball light work. He also has an unparalleled sense of spatial awareness. Iqbal knows exactly how to pick up the ball and which way to turn to avoid pressure.

Iqbal is also considered the complete midfielder as he not only has an impressive passing range but has the ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Iqbal has been described as a younger version of United main target Frenkie de Jong

Iqbal has been described as a younger version of United main target Frenkie de Jong

What did they say about him?

Former Iqbal manager Stewart Hamer told Manchester Evening News: “He had a great attitude, he was always ready to learn and he played with a big smile on his face.” He was very happy to do whatever we asked him to do.

“Everyone took their part as a goalkeeper, for example, and they would take their part in the net like everyone else.”

Hamer continued: “We’ve had quite a bit of success if you can call it that at this stage, and Zidane was at the heart of that.”

“There were times when we were playing six-man competitions and he was basically tearing it up.

“We would take him out and replace him because it wasn’t fair to the other side. Or sometimes we put it in the goal so that it doesn’t cause the danger.

United fans have also taken to social media to praise the youngster. One supporter tweeted: “My word Zidane Iqbal is class,” another supporting the statement, posting: “So satisfying to watch Zidane Iqbal play.”

While @DeepRedDevil2 added: “Zidane Iqbal what a fantastic footballer he is.” One for the future!’.

“How are Zidane and Savage a better double pivot than Scott and Fred?” asked @samono21, referring to the performance of Iqbal and fallen youth star Charlie Savage, son of former professional Robbie .

@Regi1700 rounded up the calls for more first-team action for Iqbal, posting: ‘Zidane Iqbal is working his way into Ten Hag’s first-team plans. Baller silky.’

How did Iqbal become a star off the pitch?

Iqbal has made waves off and on the pitch playing an influential role in the Professional Footballers’ Association (Aims) Asian inclusion mentorship scheme.

The 18-year-old is proud to be a “good role model” for the next generation and says he is looking forward to supporting young Asians as they try to make their way in the sport.

Iqbal previously said: “Of course I would like to be a good role model. I see a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re a role model’ and I try to reflect that in everything I do, really.

Iqbal is also a humble character. This can be demonstrated by when Iqbal attended an Aims event last summer. He was bombarded by young fans who desperately wanted to take pictures with him.

Iqbal made waves off the pitch as well as on it.  He is known for taking the time to talk with fans and support young players.  He also plays a role in 'Aims'

Iqbal made waves off the pitch as well as on it. He is known for taking the time to talk with fans and support young players. He also plays a role in ‘Aims’

He stopped and greeted every fan – posing for snaps along the way. PFA Player Inclusion Manager Riz Rehman was hugely impressed with his behavior and even commented on it after the event.

He said: “I think it shows how humble he is, it says a lot about him.” Zidane never talks about himself. He always thinks of others.

Iqbal has also been known to take the time to respond to young fans asking for advice on social media. He is also known for occasionally taking part in FIFA matches with his supporters.

But what are Iqbal’s flaws? There must be!

I certainly wouldn’t call it a downfall, but it’s important to remember that Iqbal is only 19. It will take time for him to become the footballer we all believe he can be.

He is also seen as a free spirit on the pitch and while the flares can be exciting to watch, having stability in midfield is important. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Iqbal will fare in the Premier League.

Moreover, Iqbal needs to work on the defensive side of his game to establish himself as the complete midfielder that Manchester United desperately need.

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