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How Man Utd convinced 'special talent' to join club this summer with the help of Casemiro and Mason Mount

How Man Utd convinced 'special talent' to join club this summer with the help of Casemiro and Mason Mount

A number of clubs expressed an interest in signing Mexes.

As soon as he walked through the newly-refurbished doors at Carrington, Silva Mexes was impressed.

"He's got to feel like he’s in the right environment and you could tell straight away," says former Wales international Robert Earnshaw, who joined his son at the multi-million-pound training facility. "He was smiling a lot."

Mexes had every right to be happy. Not long after Manchester United unveiled a brand new building for their women's team and academy players – a project that is part of an ongoing investment to improve facilities at Carrington – the soon-to-be summer signing was being escorted around.

The reality of potentially playing for one of Europe's biggest clubs hit Mexes, when he bumped into several members of the first-team squad, including Casemiro and Mason Mount. Rob noticed how much of an impact that seemingly small gesture made.

"Silva was very surprised by that meeting," Earnshaw tells SPORTbible. "In fact, I think that was the first time I'd seen him like, 'Oh, they're actually right there. This is real. I'm actually at Manchester United'. He was shaking hands with them and got a picture. It was a nice, authentic reaction."

Mexes was branded the first transfer of the Sir Jim Ratcliffe era when he was officially announced as a United player on Thursday, May 30, but the foundations were laid months earlier as the 14-year-old forward showcased his frightening speed and power on the academy stage with Ipswich Town.

“There were three or four different clubs who were interested," Earnshaw recalls. "You would see them at games, talking about him and how well he was playing. Everybody was picking up on his talent but United was an interesting one because I think, number one, they were persistent.

"They watched him for a while and were convinced. That goes a long way. They trusted in his ability."

Image credit: X - @RobertEarnshaw/@PT_byTiffanyT
Image credit: X - @RobertEarnshaw/@PT_byTiffanyT

Mexes grabbed headlines last month after running a 100m race in a new personal best time of 11.1 seconds.

"I think the first thing that jumps out to people is his speed," says Earnshaw. "He's lightning quick. In fact, he's been doing Athletics on the side and gets to race against older boys. They want to be Olympians and he's saying, 'Let's go, let's race!' He is super quick. I mean, sometimes he is 10 or 15 yards ahead of people. It's ridiculous.”

In terms of what United fans should expect from their latest academy signing, Earnshaw says his son thrives in one-against-one situations. "He loves to dribble," Earnshaw says. "When he's faced up with a defender. I look at him and I know he's thinking, 'Okay, let's go. Me and you'. He's got that type of mentality."

That mentality also stretches to his cool, calm and collected nature in front of goal.

"He's started to really develop his finishing ability," says Earnshaw. "Silva loves scoring goals. He's also added a nice little celebration to his game. He surprised me actually. One day, he turns up and says, 'I've got something to show you.' He made a runway, started running and did a back somersault. He likes to entertain."

Manchester United's record of naming an academy graduate in every matchday squad for the last 87 years will encourage Mexes as he gets ready to leave his home and school in Brentwood, Essex. The attention he's received after joining is also an exciting prospect.

Earnshaw was taken aback by the reaction to his son's arrival in May.

"I must admit, the attention his move has received came as a bit of a surprise," the former West Brom striker says. "Of course, you know it's a big club and you know they've got lots of fans, but you don't realise how much attention an academy signing is going to get. People already know lots about him. It's great."

If he does progress in the academy system at Carrington, then Mexes will be eligible to play for England, Wales or Zambia on the international stage.

His father, Rob, was born in Zambia; a place he still calls home.

In fact, the former Wales international has gone back to his roots to tell a story about the deadly plane crash that killed the Zambian men’s national football team in 1993 – and how the country rallied together in its aftermath.

In the new four-part season of Amazing Sports Stories – a podcast that can be found on BBC Sounds, Spotify and Apple – Earnshaw sets out on a journey to learn more about this extraordinary story.

Zambia excelled at the 1988 Olympics, bursting onto the global football stage with an exceptionally talented generation of players. The team was a point of pride for the whole nation and by 1993 they were in a great position to qualify for the World Cup for the first time ever.

However, the nation’s dreams were shattered when the plane carrying the team - nicknamed the KKXI after the Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda - crashed in Gabon in 1993.

The tragedy broke the nation’s hearts and had a devastating impact on the families of the crash victims. But the Zambian people were defiant, and a new team was assembled to continue the World Cup dream and compete in the Africa Cup of Nations, the biggest football tournament in Africa.

On the podcast, Earnshaw speaks to players and managers, obtaining first-hand accounts of the dramatic story of the World Cup qualifying campaign and Africa Cup of Nations in 1994.

"It took me right back to when I was nine-years-old," he tells us. "I've learned how inspired I was by the Zambian 1993 team."

He added: "It's a story that is tragic, romantic, powerful, and simply one of the most fascinating football stories of all time. While narrating the story, I was especially moved given that as a football player I travelled on flights internationally the same as ‘The Copper Bullets’ (The Zambia Football Team), and it’s incredible that some of my family were supposed to be on that plane.”

You can listen to the first episode of Copper Bullets here.

Featured Image Credit: X - @RobertEarnshaw/@PT_byTiffanyT

Topics: Manchester United, Premier League, Wales, Spotlight