Manchester United Reportedly Among 3 Clubs Watching Aaron Connolly

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2018

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Aaron Connoly of Brighton & Hove Albion U21 poses with the matchball after scoring a hat trick during the Checkatrade Trophy match between Milton Keynes Dons and Brighton & Hove Albion U21  at Stadium mk on November 13, 2018 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
Pete Norton/Getty Images

Manchester United are one of three clubs said to be watching Brighton & Hove Albion striker Aaron Connolly. The Red Devils' local rivals Manchester City are also keen on the 18-year-old, along with Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, per Lyall Thomas of Sky Sports News.

Connolly has been impressing at academy level for the Seagulls this season. He has scored nine times for the U23 side to go with five goals in EFL Trophy action, according to Thomas.

Connolly is reportedly hesitating about signing a new deal with Brighton, but the club is open to sanctioning a loan move during the January transfer window. The situation has left United, City and Hoffenheim "monitoring his development."

United already know about Connolly's potential after the player had a trial before he eventually signed for the Seagulls back in 2016. 

Connolly has been in fine form in front of goal at youth levels.
Connolly has been in fine form in front of goal at youth levels.Pete Norton/Getty Images

The Red Devils have a long tradition of giving young players a chance, particularly up front. This season's senior squad features academy graduates in striker Marcus Rashford, 21, and 25-year-old attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard.

City could also claim to fast-track youth, especially under Pep Guardiola. He has promoted 18-year-old playmaker Phil Foden to the first team and has rarely shied away from starting youngsters if they are good enough.

However, it's fair to say Connolly would likely struggle to make an immediate impact in the first team should he join either United or City this winter. Both teams have more established players in attack, with Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leading the line at Old Trafford, while Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus play through the middle for the Citizens.

Connolly may have a better chance of starting sooner if he moves to the German top flight. As Thomas noted, Arsenal forward Reiss Nelson is flourishing during a temporary stay in Hoffenheim:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Reiss Nelson: Only Kylian Mbappe (11) has scored more goals than Nelson (6) of teenagers in Europe's top five leagues this season https://t.co/Ju112N7fAu

Arsenal FC @Arsenal

We're proud of you, @ReissNelson9 👊 Reiss wins @Bundesliga_EN Rookie of the Month 👇

Head coach Julian Nagelsmann may offer Connolly more chances earlier on in Germany. Even so, the striker may be best served simply biding his time at Brighton.

The Seagulls aren't prolific in attack, finding the net 13 times in 12 matches in the Premier League. Six of those goals have come from veteran Glenn Murray, who likely represents Connolly's biggest obstacle to first-team football.

He's still in fine form, but Murray is 35. It means Brighton need to start thinking about a replacement sooner rather than later, so Connolly could find that patience will be beneficial in the long run.