Steve Evans turned to his contacts book yet again in summer 2023; signing forward Charlie McNeill on loan from Manchester United. The young striker certainly came with a solid rep. In his first season with United’s U18 squad, he bagged 24 goals from 21 appearances. And you don’t need us to tell you that’s a fair old strike rate, no matter the level of the game. McNeill’s arrival at the Lamex came on the last day of the summer 2023 transfer window – and it wasn’t without its questions. The most pertinent was “did we need another forward”?
That isn’t to cast aspersions on the lad before he even started, however. McNeill is recognised as a real prospect and getting him in was a good bit of a business. And what a start he made too; netting on debut away to Leyton Orient. In making such a fine start to his time with us, it seemed as if a run in the team was nailed down. In the end, however, it would be tough for the youngster to force his way past more senior strikers. By the time he returned to Old Trafford in January 2024, he only had three appearances under his belt. Still, the talent was clear to see.
Charlie McNeill: Before Boro’
McNeill’s first season in United’s U18 team certainly justified – or least started to justify – the £750,000 paid out to rivals Manchester City for his services. In September 2022, the forward made the step up to the first team; an opportunity to show his capabilities in a Europa League tie against Real Sociedad. And it meant lining up in a side that included Cristiano Ronaldo among others. That came the day before his 19th birthday and was a clear show of faith from the United leadership in his future at the club.
To strengthen his experience, McNeill went out on loan during the second half of the 2022-3 campaign; signing for Newport County in League Two. It wasn’t the most prolific spell – but, then again, what do you expect? Your average fourth tier game will be somewhat different in style and pace to United. In any case, he did score twice across 20 appearances for the Welsh side. The move to Boro’ in summer 2023, therefore, was the latest step up in the lad’s development. And we’ll soon see if we did McNeill good…