He may not have been on Louis van Gaal’s wishlist, but Vanja Milinkovic is still on his way to Manchester United. After one more season with Serbian club FK Vojvodina, the 17-year-old U-level standout will move to England, with the goalkepeers’ club and the English titans having announced his transfer on Saturday.
The 6’7″ Serbian garnered after going unbeaten in six games during UEFA U-17 qualifying. Having signed his first professional deal in April, the son of a professional soccer-playing father, basketball-playing mother has agreed to an English move, though he’ll spend 2014-15 on loan at Vojvodina.
If Milinkovic goes on to play for United’s first team, he will follow in the footsteps of two fellow Serbians – departing captain Nemanja Vidic (300 appearances from 2006 to 2014) and winger Zoran Tosic (5 appearances from 2009 to 2010).
Milinkovic, who turned 17 on 20 February, made six appearances for Serbia in the qualifying phase for the UEFA Under-17 Championship, keeping three clean sheets. His country marginally missed out on a place in the finals tournament currently being held in Malta, after finishing above Republic of Ireland and Georgia but behind Germany on goal difference in an elite-round group.
It’s going to be a while before we know if Milinkovic’s influence is more Vidic’s or Tosic’s. Manchester United already has a fine first choice keeper: 23-year-old David de Gea. The club also has Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos, though given his age (24), Amos seems unlikely to have an impact at a club where Lindegaard is the number two. If Milinkovic’s age wasn’t already a huge clue, United’s depth chart makes it clear: The team’s newest signing is unlikely to see action any time soon.
Where does Milinkovic fit in? Nowhere, right now. The 17-year-old won’t even be at the club for another year. Until then, it’s hard to know if he’s even any good, let alone whether (or when) he’ll impact the first team.
Best case scenario, the Red Devils have their Thibaut Courtois. Worst case scenario, United have gone out of its way to import a teenager who’ll never impact the senior squad. But that’s world soccer, isn’t it?