Zidane Iqbal has been hitting the 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 captured the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful.
The teenage midfielder was introduced to United fans last season when he made his professional debut in the Champions League during a 1-1 draw against Young Boys in December. However, little came from his cameo.
Zidane Iqbal has been excelling for Manchester United on their pre-season tour this summer
Nevertheless, United made the decision to hand Iqbal a new long-term deal that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2025. A decision which is now regarded as music to United fans’ ears after watching him on tour this summer.
The 19-year-old did not look out of place when coming up against the likes of Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita during Man United’s 4-0 win against Liverpool.
Iqbal also showed off his impressive skillset in the second half of the Red Devils’ match against Melbourne Victory in Australia. One particular move just before the hour mark even ended up going viral.
He has also been recognised internationally, playing for Iraq’s national team in World Cup qualifiers against Iran and Lebanon off the bench.
As a result, Sportsmail have rounded up all the must know details about the player and dug out the quirky bits of information you’ve all been dying to know about.
Where has Iqbal been hiding?
Iqbal may be regarded as Manchester United’s shiny new toy but the 19-year-old actually joined the Red Devils at the age of nine in 2012. However, featuring for the first-team before hitting double figures wasn’t exactly on the cards.
As a result, he plied his trade in the academy set-up before being handed his first-team debut in United’s 1-1 draw against Young Boys in the Champions League last season.
Iqbal – who was given the nod alongside Robbie Savage’s son Charlie – flew under the radar for the remainder of the 2021-2022 campaign but burst onto the scene this summer after excelling during United’s pre-season tour.
Iqbal was handed his first-team debut by Ralf Rangnick in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw against Young Boys in the Champions League last season (above)
What makes Iqbal so special and is he worth the hype?
Lots of young players get hyped up after a few good performances and end up falling off the radar. So, those cynics out there have been asking what makes Iqbal special?
It’s a reasonable question to ask and one that I will answer as best as I can you. Iqbal is a box to box midfielder that knows how to connect with the strikers and bring his fellow midfielders into the game.
Iqbal enjoys operating in an advanced position – delivering balls into the wide areas for the wingers to run onto. He also uses his impressive skillset to beat players in the middle of the park before gunning forwards.
Iqbal is known (well, as known as you can be at 18 years old) for being a natural risk-taker. His flair has seen him unlock some of the best defences in the world. A characteristic you either have or you don’t!
However, what makes Iqbal so special is his decision making and composure in tight spaces. He has the ability to go forwards and initiate an attack but he also knows when to hold onto the ball and build-up play.
That being said, Iqbal must learn to ‘turn up’ to every game after disappearing into the background during 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 did little in influence play.
Iqbal is a box to box midfielder that knows how to connect with the strikers and bring his fellow midfielder’s into the game. He also has an expansive skill set that makes him dangerous
Iqbal’s favourite position and who is at risk next year
So, where can we expect to see Iqbal playing next season? And, who could he kick out of the current Manchester United squad? Well, Iqbal’s preferred position is in the No 10 but he is versatile and open to changes.
Speaking to United view 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, anywhere the manager asks me to play.
‘When I was younger I used to play 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 am on the pitch.’
Fans have already hinted that Fred and Scott McTominay could be at risk next season as they believe Iqbal and Savage’s partnership is move beneficial for Manchester United.
Is it true Iqbal is like a mini Frenkie de Jong?
Erik ten Hag has struggled to make any real progress when it comes to securing the services of Frenkie de Jong 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 – glides across the pitch and makes running with the ball look like 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 regarded as the complete midfielder as he not only has an impressive passing range, he has the ability to put the ball into the back of the net.
Iqbal has been described as a younger version of United’s primary target Frenkie de Jong
What’s been said about him?
Iqbal’s old coach Stewart Hamer told Manchester Evening News: ‘He had a great attitude, he was always willing to learn and he played with a big smile on his face. He was quite happy to do whatever we challenged him to do.
‘Everyone took their part in being a goalkeeper, for example, and he’d take his part in the net just like everyone else.’
Hamer continued: ‘We had quite a bit of success if you can call it that at that stage, and Zidane was at the heart of that.
‘There were times when we would play six-a-side competitions and he would be basically ripping it up.
‘We would take him off and substitute him because it wasn’t fair to the other side. Or sometimes we’d put him in goal so he wasn’t causing the danger.’
United fans have also taken to social media to heap praise on the youngster. One supporter Tweeted: ‘My word Zidane Iqbal is class,’ with another backing up the statement, posting: ‘So satisfying to watch Zidane Iqbal play.’
While the likes of @DeepRedDevil2 added: ‘Zidane Iqbal, what a fantastic footballer he is. One for the future!’.
‘How is Zidane and Savage a better double pivot than Scott and Fred,’ asked @samono21, in reference to the performance of Iqbal and fell 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 playing his way into Ten Hag’s first-team plans. Silky baller.’
How has Iqbal become a star off the pitch?
Iqbal has made waves off the pitch as well as on it by playing an influential role in the Professional Footballers’ Association Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (Aims).
The 18-year-old prides himself on being a ‘good role model’ to the next generation and says he is eager to support Asian youngsters as they try to make their way in sport.
Iqbal previously said: ‘Of course I’d like to be a good role model. I see lots of people saying, “Oh, you’re a role model” and I try to take that on in everything I do, really.’
Iqbal is also a humble character. This can be evidenced by the time Iqbal attended an Aims event last summer. He was bombarded by young fans who were desperate to take pictures with him.
Iqbal has made waves off the pitch as well as on it. He is known for taking the time to speak with fans and support younger players. He is also plays a role in ‘Aims’
He stopped and greeted each fan – posing for snaps along the way. Riz Rehman, the PFA’s player inclusion executive, was extremely impressed with his behaviour and even commented on it after the event.
He said: ‘I think that demonstrated just how humble he is, it says everything about him. Zidane never makes it about himself. He’s always thinking about others.’
Iqbal is also known for taking the time to reply to young fans asking for advice over social media. He is also known for taking part in the occasional FIFA game with his supporters.
But what are Iqbal’s downfalls? There has to be some!
I certainly wouldn’t say it is a downfall, but it is important to remember Iqbal is just 19 years old. It will take time for him to develop into the footballer we all believe he can be.
He is also regarded as a free spirit on the pitch and although flare can be exciting to watch, it’s important to have stability in the midfield. Therefore, it remains to be seen as to how Iqbal will fare in the Premier League.
Additionally, Iqbal must work on the defensive side of his game to establish himself as the complete midfielder Manchester United so desperately crave.