Erik ten Hag

The Erik ten Hag era at Manchester United has started with a lot of positives. In their opening two friendlies, they defeated Liverpool 4-0 and Melbourne Victory 4-1.

There is a name in Manchester United’s squad on the tour that stands out from the rest: Zidane Aamar Iqbal , who is one of the biggest positives of the pre-season yet.

First player from Southeast Asia to play for United

On December 8, 2021, the youngster made his official Manchester United debut under Ralf Rangnick. It was against Young Boys in the Champions League (1-1), at the age of 18 years, seven months, and 11 days old. He made history by becoming United’s first player from Southeast Asia.

He ‘disappeared’ after that but is now sparkling once more. He played in Anthony Elanga one on one with a 40-yard pass and left Fabinho scrambling with a dribble to remember against Liverpool. On the other hand, he managed to break loose with a Zinedine Zidane-esque 360-degree turn against Melbourne Victory.

“It’s my first tour with the first team and I’m excited,” Iqbal quipped after the Liverpool game.

“It’s great to start with a win against Liverpool. I’d like to thank the coach for his confidence.”

So good they used to play him as a goalkeeper

For those who have known him since he first began to emerge as a youth player, his rise is no surprise.

“Manchester United, City and Liverpool were closely behind him. He had a lot of talent on the ball. I remember in 6v6 tournaments we had to take him off. He was so superior that it seemed unfair to the opposing team. Sometimes we’d even put him in goal,” recalls Stewart Hamer, his first coach at Sale United.

Zidane chose to join Manchester United at the age of nine, having grown up two miles from Old Trafford. He recently extended his contract until 2025, and for Hamer, Zidane’s story has just begun.

“This is the icing on the cake of his time at the academy, but hopefully it’s just the beginning of the story,” Hamer proudly boasted after his debut against Young Boys.

“I have grown up cheering for this club and to make my Champions League debut for Manchester United at Old Trafford is an incredible honour,” said Zidane, who became the 241st academy player to make his senior debut.

His idol is Mesut Ozil

In addition to having the same name, Zidane Iqbal plays in a similar manner to Zinedine Zidane, being extremely gifted and inventive just like the France legend.

But United’s new ‘jewel’ has a different idol.

“I look up to Mesut Ozil because he is a Muslim, like me,” Zidane revealed.

English, Iraqi and Pakistani

His name makes his origins clear. Zidane Aamar Iqbal was born in England, but his father and mother are of Pakistani and Iraqi descent respectively.

“I grew up in Manchester all my life, so I would say I am a proud ‘Mancunian’. But I’m also proud of my heritage. I’m proud to be English, Pakistani and Iraqi,” he admitted.

He had the option of playing for Pakistan or England, but ultimately he decided to represent Iraq. He made his debut in an official game in a 1-0 win against Iran on January 27, 2022.

“I feel this is the right decision for my career,” he said.

“It is a great honour to represent Iraq. My family is proud of me and I feel that playing in the World Cup qualifiers will be a step forward in my career.”

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