By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Youth products Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage and veteran Tom Heaton expressed their delight after making their debuts for Manchester United in Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with Young Boys.
With top spot in Group F already sewn up, interim manager Ralf Rangnick changed the entire starting line-up and named a reduced seven-man bench comprised of homegrown players.
Aside from Mason Greenwood’s stunning opener and a brilliant Fabian Rieder equaliser, the 1-1 Old Trafford encounter was largely forgettable other than some noteworthy second-half introductions.
Unbelievable feeling to make my professional debut at Old Trafford. I have grown up supporting this club and to represent Manchester United in the Champions League is an incredible honour. This would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends and coaches.❤️ pic.twitter.com/vExlwtKUCe
— zidane iqbal (@z10ane) December 9, 2021
Savage – the son of former Wales international Robbie – came on towards the end of the game for his United debut, as did Iqbal as he became the first British South Asian to represent the club.
“Unbelievable feeling to make my professional debut at Old Trafford,” the Manchester-born 18-year-old, who has Iraqi and Pakistani heritage, posted on Twitter.
“I have grown up supporting this club and to represent Manchester United in the Champions League is an incredible honour.
“This would not have been possible without the support of my family, friends and coaches.”
Delighted to have made my first team debut for @manchesterunited in the champions league. I would like to thank all the academy staff for their support over the last 14 years and the manager for putting his trust in me tonight ⚽️❤️ #mufc pic.twitter.com/ca5BuPT1KE
— Charlie Savage (@charliesavage84) December 8, 2021
Savage shared similar emotions on social media.
“Delighted to have made my first team debut for Manchester United in the Champions League,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I would like to thank all the academy staff for their support over the last 14 years and the manager for putting his trust in me tonight.”
While Iqbal and Savage made their senior competitive debut, it was an altogether different moment for Heaton.
Having coming through the youth ranks, the 35-year-old won three England caps and enjoyed an impressive career after leaving United in 2010.
Heaton, who returned to Old Trafford earlier this year, replaced Dean Henderson in the second half, making his debut for the club he first joined as a trainee nearly two decades ago.
“It felt great,” he said. “Playing at Old Trafford in front of a capacity crowd, it was always going to be a great feeling.
“Having come here as a visitor, I’ve always enjoyed it, but (on Wednesday night), to wear the home shirt, my first competitive debut was obviously a brilliant moment. I loved every minute of it.
“But, yeah, you cross the white line, the focus is obviously on doing the job.
“Now I just have an appetite for more. I felt great and I want to kick on from here.”
Heaton spent time at Cardiff, Bristol City, Burnley and Aston Villa before this summer’s homecoming, with the experienced goalkeeper hoping for more opportunities.
— Tom Heaton (@TomHeatonGK) December 9, 2021
“I’ve been on the bench quite a few times, played a few friendlies, loan spells and I made the right decision to leave to go and play,” he told MUTV.
“Every move I made since then was to go and play. Coming back here, that didn’t change and I know I have to be patient and there’s a fantastic goalkeeping department.
“David (De Gea) has been outstanding this year, Dean’s obviously a top goalkeeper as well, Lee Grant, Matej Kovar… it’s a top department.
“But, yeah, for me, the drive is playing, I’ve said that all the way through and that hasn’t changed.
“I’ve been working day in, day out, as I say and it’s a first marker for me (on Wednesday night) and I certainly want more of it.”