Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has compared Manchester United youngster Ethan Galbraith to Barcelona legends Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The midfielder initially joined the Red Devils on a one-year scholarship in 2017 and went on to sign his first professional contract with United in 2018.
The teenager made his senior debut against Astana in the Europa League last November and is highly regarded in the Manchester United youth set up. Galbraith signed a three-year extension with the Red Devils last month, with the option of an extra year.
The youngster, who has made one senior appearance for the Northern Ireland national team, was named in the national squad for the Euro 2020 qualifying game against Slovakia. It is clear that manager Baraclough thinks very highly of the Manchester United protégé.
The Manchester United midfielder has shown great maturity in recent months
Baraclough spoke of the youngster’s consistent development of late, and pointed out that the Northern Ireland senior team didn't have anyone quite like him.
"Ethan, over the last six months, we’ve seen a maturity in his play and the way he goes about his work from day-to-day. He’s excelled with the Under-21s and he’s a different type of player to anyone we’ve got in the senior squad."
The manager believes Galbraith has earned his place in the Northern Ireland setup.
"Hopefully it’s the start of a long career for him. Hopefully, he relishes his time from the start in this squad, rather than coming in from the Under-21 squad. He has earned his right with the way he has gone about his play for the last six months."
Baraclough went on to claim that the Manchester United midfielder displays the same rare attributes as diminutive playmakers Xavi and Iniesta.
"Not to put too much pressure on his shoulders, but he’s our little Iniesta or Xavi, someone who can get on the ball and manipulate the ball and find positive passes. Over the coming years, he will give us a different flavor to the squad."
Baraclough is in no doubt that Galbraith is ready to stake a claim for a permanent spot in the Northern Ireland squad, despite his relative lack of experience.
"He’s been brought in a couple of times and made his debut against Luxembourg. For him to be picked outright, it’s a big moment for him, but he’s ready for it."
The head coach believes that Galbraith's performances for Manchester United's youth team have developed him into a role model for other young footballers in the country.
"He’s gone and signed a new deal with Man Utd and you can see there’s a real self-confidence about him. It’s great someone like that can be a shining light for the young players, knowing there are chances for them if they perform at their clubs."