The Wonderkid Power Rankings: Man Utd starlets surge as Chelsea's Cole Palmer battles to stay top

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
We track the best young players in the Premier League as young Manchester United stars fly high and Cole Palmer faces a fight to stay top.

Welcome once more to our weekly Wonderkid Power Rankings – 3 Added Minutes’ speculative effort at deciding who the best young player in the Premier League is right now. Last week, Cole Palmer reclaimed the throne but after a torrid week for Chelsea, can he cling on in the face of some seriously fierce competition?

This was a fantastic week for the top flight’s brightest prospects, with shedloads of goals and some brilliant defensive displays – but we must, as is often the case, say a likely temporary farewell to a few players whose form has dipped enough to knock them out of the top ten. In this case, Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott and Ryan Gravenberch got limited minutes over two matches and failed to make the most of them, while Burnley’s goalkeeper James Trafford struggled to keep his excellent recent form up as the Clarets shipped five goals in two games.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That, of course, means room for three shiny new entries – so without further ado, let’s see who takes top spot this week…

10. Kobbie Mainoo - Manchester United (new entry)

The Stockport-born 18-year-old is becoming an increasingly regular presence in Manchester United’s midfield and is looking more confident by the game – and that confidence will likely not have been hurt by his astonishing, as-last-gasp-as-it-gets winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers during last week’s game ridiculously entertaining match at the Molineux.

He followed that piece of high drama with a solid but unspectacular hour’s work against West Ham United in a more comfortable victory at Old Trafford, and the general impression given by this past week is of a talented player settling down to his task in the big boys’ league very well, but who can also come up clutch when his team needs it most.

9. Murillo – Nottingham Forest (NE)

The Brazilian centre-half arrived as something of an unknown quantity with very little senior football under his belt, and indeed the 21-year-old has already played more league games for Nottingham Forest than he ever managed for Corinthians back home – but he’s beginning to look like a very smart piece of scouting thanks to some rock-solid showings at the back.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He was especially good in the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth, with no fewer than six tackles and interceptions as he helped to keep Dominic Solanke and company quiet, but when you throw in his effort in the 2-1 loss to Arsenal you get a total of no fewer than 17 clearances and six blocked shots, which are colossal numbers and a testament to his smart positional sense and determination. He could do with being a little more dominant in the air, but his ground work is deeply impressive.

8. Pape Matar Sarr – Tottenham Hotspur (⬇️ 4)

Sarr only got half an hour of so of action this week after returning from his all-too-brief run at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, and while he was perfectly tidy in those 30 short minutes against Everton, he didn’t really do anything that put his name up in lights – so allowing a few players who shone over the course of the last seven days to overtake him for now seems fair to us.

7. Facundo Buonanotte – Brighton & Hove Albion (NE)

A hard-working winger or attacking midfielder who can drift frustratingly in and out of games, the 19-year-old Argentine had one of his best weeks yet in the blue and white shirt thanks to a big contribution at both ends of the field in the 4-1 derby day thrashing of Crystal Palace.

His fine far-post header put the Seagulls 2-0 up against their rivals but he also chipped in plenty going away from goal as well, putting in four tackles over the course of the game to stymie Palace attacks. He managed three in the rather dismal defeat away to Luton Town, as well, a game in which he didn’t offer as much going forward, but there has still been a general upward curve to his performances after a tough run through December.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

6. Conor Bradley – Liverpool (⬆️ 4)

A week that began like a dream ended in tragic and difficult circumstances, with the young Northern Irishman missing the defeat to Arsenal following the sad passing of his father. We can only wish him and his family the best, and hope that it’s some comfort that his dad had the chance to watch his son put his name up in lights with a stunning display against Chelsea.

He scored one and set up two more in the 4-1 rout of Chelsea, a superb performance that was perhaps the best right-back display of the Premier League season so far and which marked Bradley out as a massive talent with a brilliant final ball and a knack for making dangerous things happen in the final third. Let’s hope that he’s back soon and that the Bradley clan are holding up as well as humanly possible in their time of grief.

5. Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United (⬆️ 2)

The blond-mopped Argentine produces magic and frustration in equal measure for United, but managed plenty more of the former this week, especially with his brilliant brace in the 3-0 defeat of West Ham. His first may have been helped on his way by a fortuitous deflection but his second was a calm and composed finish into the far corner as he ran rampant against a bedraggled Hammers defence.

Against Wolves a few days earlier, he was provider rather than goal threat, making four key passes and offering up 0.54 expected assists’ worth of final balls, although his balls were the ones that the strikers made a hash of on this occasion. Still, two of his best performances for United to date in the space of a few days, and ones which demonstrated some necessarily improved decision-making in the final third.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

4. Destiny Udogie – Tottenham Hotspur (⬇️ 2)

After a couple of very solid matches in which he demonstrated his defensive chops but didn’t offer quite so much going forward, the young Italian suddenly flipped it around completely and served up two matches in which he was exceptionally dangerous going forward but was a downright liability at the back.

He offered up two shooting chances for Brentford during the midweek 3-2 win, one of which resulted in a goal, but also made up for it by showing persistence and composure to equalise after giving the ball away for Neal Maupay’s opener. Then, in the thrilling fun 2-2 draw against Everton, he provided an assist but also lost possession a staggering 26 times and managed just 68% passing accuracy, very low by his high standards. To say the least, a very mixed week for a very gifted player.

3. Cole Palmer – Chelsea (⬇️ 2)

Palmer loses his number one spot after a hard week for his side, although few would blame the former Manchester City midfielder for the two brutal defeats that Chelsea endured. Against Liverpool he was tidy but ineffective in the final third, and while he scored against Wolves he was less efficient with the ball, and between the two performances he wasn’t able to make the difference as he has on so many occasions.

In fairness, his goal against Wolves was rather lovely, finding a hectare or so of space in between defenders to latch onto Moisés Caicedo’s through pass and slot home coolly into the far corner – but he wasn’t able to follow that up with the kind of controlled passing and threat that he’s offered at his best.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

2. Rasmus Højlund – Manchester United (⬆️ 3)

Having failed to find the net in his first 14 Premier League games, suddenly the young Dane has bagged in four on the bounce, with a couple of assists thrown in there for good measure – and all of United’s goalscoring woes have mysteriously vanished.

His opening goal against West Ham was probably the best of his recent run of form, shimmying his way into space before lashing a 20-yard drive into the bottom corner, but his goal and assist against Wolves could be just as important come the end of the season with Erik ten Hag’s side finally trending upwards after so many early-season struggles. Højlund was noted for being a bit streaky when he played for Atalanta, but United will hope he can keep this run going a little while longer yet.

1. Jarrad Branthwaite – Everton (⬆️ 2)

The towering Evertonian goes back to top spot after two excellent performances, capped by a thrilling injury-time equaliser against Spurs which was just reward both for his and his team’s performance at Goodison Park.

He was arguably even better at Craven Cottage a few days prior, however, when his mammoth defensive display held Fulham to a 0-0 draw – Branthwaite alone managed no fewer than three tackles, three blocked shots, five clearances and an interception as he snuffed out attack after attack single-handedly. Branthwaite isn’t the most technically adroit defender in the league, but when it comes to the basic business of preventing the ball from hitting the back of the net, he looks absolutely first class.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.