James Wilson delivers on Man Utd promise eight years after his dream Old Trafford debut

Wilson scored twice on his Premier League debut but withered at Old Trafford, although his Wembley masterclass for Port Vale proved his talent still exists

James Wilson with the trophy

James Wilson is the boy who scored twice on his Premier League debut for Manchester United – and had to wait eight years to reap the glory.

When Wilson reinforced interim United manager Ryan Giggs’ judgment with two clean finishes against Hull in May 2014, the world seemed to be at an 18-year-old boy’s oyster. His talent withered when Louis van Gaal loaned him out to gain experience and then Jose Mourinho turned the path from academy to first-team at Old Trafford into a bottleneck.

But when Port Vale returned to League One with a play-off win at Wembley, Wilson’s master class proved he hadn’t shed all the good habits he’d picked up at United – they were just touring. The 26-year-old has matured into a Teddy Sheringham-type forward who contributed to the Valiants’ promotion party with 15 goals and intelligent connection play.

Wilson said: “Apart from my debut for United, you really can’t top my mood right now. This is one of the memories that will stay with me until I die.

“Obviously the route I took was scenic and I get into training and work hard like I’ve done for every other team I’ve played for but this is where I’ve been happiest.

James Wilson celebrates scoring his final goal for Port Vale at Wembley


Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

“I didn’t know what to expect when I left United because my whole life has revolved around them since I was nine years old. But the loan moves I made gave me a hunger to be a man and the experiences I had there fueled me for that.

“Port Vale are now benefiting from that experience and I owe a lot to United for giving me the confidence to play in games like this.”

From Derby to Sheffield United, Aberdeen and Salford City, Wilson’s career appeared to have stalled until Vale offered him a free transfer last summer. But those good habits from his United days never left him, and his manager Darrell Clarke – who serenaded his man of the match with a dizzying refrain of ‘Walking in a Wilson Wonderland’ in the guts of Wembley – paid tribute to his maturity.

James Wilson on his Man Utd debut


Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Clarke said: “James still has incredible talent and he’s probably enjoying his football more than ever.”

Mansfield were crushed by a blistering 15 minutes that saw Kian Harratt and Wilson give Vale a 2-0 lead and then Oli Hawkins – cautioned 14 times during the season – was sent off for two more yellow cards before the break. Mal Benning, whose parents are Indian Sikhs, made it a memorable day for the British Asians in football by scoring Vale’s third goal with a volley.

Stags manager Nigel Clough said: “I got relegated to Burton on the last day of the season with four minutes to go but it’s hard to take. We have not done ourselves justice.”

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