There’s a refreshing sense of optimism around our national football side right now.
After progressing to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have a golden opportunity to make the final in Moscow on Sunday.
But even if the trophy doesn’t “come home”, there’s no reason for that notorious native cynicism to seep back into our football stands.
England are currently the World Cup holders at U17 and U20 level, and with such a plethora of talent waiting in the wings, the future has never looked brighter.
Here, MM takes a look at the Manchester starlets who have been lighting up the youth stage. There’s every indication our city may be nourishing be some huge international stars in the making…
A real beast of a centre-back, Joel Latibeaudiere looks like a born leader even at the tender age of 18.
The Manchester City defender captained England U17s to a famous World Cup win in India last year, leading by example from start to finish with his tough tackling and timely interventions.
Every national side needs an inspirational commander at the back, and Latibeaudiere could turn out to be that essential cog in the system if he continues to progress at such a rapid pace.
Pep Guardiola has been full of praise for young attacking midfielder Phil Foden – who looks like one of the most exceptional prospects to climb the Manchester City youth academy in recent years.
The enormously talented teenager turned heads on the international stage during the U17 World Cup – winning the tournament’s Golden Ball Award and also BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
He began to break through into the City first team last season, offering fans fleeting glimpses of his deft first-touch and silky dribbling skills.
Over the next 24 months, everyone is likely to see much more of what this sensational Stockport midfielder is capable of as he aims to become an England star.
It’s easy to forget Marcus Rashford is just 20-years-old.
The electrifying Wythenshawe-born striker has quickly established himself as part of the prestigious furniture at Old Trafford, bringing pace and excitement to the front line that booked him a seat on the plane to Russia.
He’s not the finished article by any stretch – as his one-on-one miss against Belgium exemplified – but he could be halfway there come Qatar. By then he’ll be 24 – likely with more than 100 extra games’ worth of experience under his belt.
Many are in agreement that the best is yet to come from the United fans’ favourite.
All Manchester United fans are currently relying on Paul Pogba to serve as their main creative outlet, hoping to see more of the Frenchmen’s best next season after what has been a somewhat underwhelming second spell with the Red Devils so far.
But if Pogba never does reach those dizzy heights, the Old Trafford faithful need not worry too much. They have the gifted Angel Gomes in their reserve team – who is being tipped to develop into the kind of player that can boss the middle of the park.
An international World Cup winner at U17 level, Gomes possesses the kind of passing, vision and ability to read the game that has him earn comparisons to Paul Scholes.
And the future bodes well for any player in the same breed as England’s former ginger midfield general.
Jordan Pickford has looked rather solid between the sticks so far, but Southgate could be considering Curtis Andersen as another potential shot-stopping option in a few years’ time.
The Manchester City goalkeeper conceded just six goals and kept two clean sheets in the U17s’ terrific World Cup triumph, and is seemingly highly-rated by many at the Etihad Stadium.
There’s a long way to go, but Andersen is showing all the early signs of a goalkeeper that England can put their faith in.