Northern Ireland teenager Ethan Galbraith has the ability to star for Manchester United, says Magilton
Northern Ireland teenage sensation Ethan Galbraith can become a big hit for club and country having signed a professional contract with Manchester United, according to his former coach Jim Magilton.
Midfielder Galbraith (17) only arrived at Old Trafford last summer but has made a major impression already, and yesterday put pen to paper on his first pro deal, which will see him train with Jose Mourinho's superstar players next season.
It was a proud moment for the ex-Glengormley High School pupil, who helped United's Under-18 team, managed by Enniskillen man Kieran McKenna, win the Premier League North title this term.
- Proud moment: Manchester United hand Northern Ireland teenager Ethan Galbraith a professional contract at Old Trafford
Irish FA Elite Performance Director Magilton believes Galbraith has the qualities to shine for United having coached the youngster during his time with the Club NI programme.
"Signing your first professional contract is a huge moment, especially for a club of Manchester United's stature, but I'm sure Ethan will keep his feet on the ground, apply himself and hopefully get the opportunity to play first-team football because I think he has the ability and attitude to take it," said Magilton, who played Premier League football with Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich.
Magilton continued: "I also believe he has a real chance of playing for the senior Northern Ireland team in the future. Michael (O'Neill) is very aware of him.
"I remember bringing Ethan to train with our Under-21 team when he was 16 and he was different class. He shone like a beacon in that company."
Galbraith's pro deal with United is a massive boost to the IFA's Elite Performance Programme which has also brought through gifted youngsters such as Chelsea's Sam McClelland and Everton's Ethan Warnock.
From early on, Magilton was sure that Galbraith, who played for the Linfield Under-16 side, had the attributes to go far.
"Ethan was doing things that excited you. When he had the ball you thought something was going to happen. He's extremely gifted technically in both feet and is quick," said Magilton, who won 52 caps in midfield for Northern Ireland.
"Galbraith had this aura and a presence that you knew he could do something special. He understood the game and sometimes you let him go and play without putting restrictions on him.
"He also has a wonderful attitude, leadership qualities and has always been football daft. He loves the game and would play until it was dark.
"Ethan had decisions to make about which club he would go to and he chose Manchester United because I think that's the level where he believes he can play at.
"Ironically, at the start of the Club NI programme he starred for us in the Milk Cup against Manchester United at the Coleraine Showgrounds. It was our 2001 group, who were Under-13s at the time, and we won 5-1 and Ethan scored a wonder goal.
"The more he is around elite players, training and playing alongside them, the more he will feed off that and the better he will become."
The Belfast boy, who only turned 17 at the start of the month, made 15 appearances for United's Under-18 team this season, netting a blockbuster late in the campaign against Manchester City to effectively clinch the title for the young Red Devils.
On his deal, Galbraith said: "It's a proud moment for me and my family and I just want to push on from here."