Iqbal becomes first British South Asian in a Man Utd squad

Manchester United have named Zidane Iqbal on the bench for their Champions League game with Young Boys, making him the first British South Asian to be in a United squad.

The 18-year-old was named in United’s squad and trained with the first team on Tuesday, before taking his place on the bench for the visit of the Swiss side on Wednesday night, with qualification and top spot in Group F already secured.

The Manchester-born midfielder, who has Pakistani and Iraqi heritage, made history when he penned pro terms at Old Trafford in April, and now becomes the first British South Asian to take up a place on United’s bench in modern-day history.

Ralf Rangnick confirmed Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson would both start for United, but gave little away on Tuesday about the rest of the make-up of his matchday squad.

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Manchester United Interim manager Ralf Rangnick ruled out talk of January transfers and insists his current squad is not too small.

“Even if we may be playing with a few new players or fresh players, it’s still important that we win the game,” the United interim manager told reporters.

“And, by the way, the first game in this group we lost at Young Boys and so we still need to make up for that and it’s clear, no matter which kind of players we will start tomorrow, we definitely want to win the game.”

Manchester-born Iqbal has spent more than a decade with United, playing at early years’ sessions before joining the club at the foundation phase.

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The attacking midfielder is well-regarded by coaches at United and has cemented his place as an U23s regular despite being one of the younger members of the squad.

Why England could miss out on Iqbal

Sky Sports News last month revealed England face the prospect of missing out on the United teenager, with Iraqi football chiefs keen to secure the teenager’s services at senior international level.

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Gareth Southgate welcomed the push for greater Asian representation across football when he appeared alongside Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury and Manchester United starlet Zidane Iqbal in an FA video series during South Asian Heritage Month

Iqbal was called up to play for the Iraqi U23 side at last month’s WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) Championship, helping them reach the semi-finals before their elimination to Saudi Arabia. Iqbal also featured against United Arab Emirates, and took the captain’s armband before scoring against Lebanon.

He is eligible to represent England, Iraq and Pakistan at international but has never been called up to an England age-group squad.

The teenager netted for the club’s youngsters against Sunderland in the EFL Trophy last month, and followed that up by scoring United’s opener in their 4-2 UEFA Youth League win against Italian side Atalanta.

Iqbal is one of five British South Asian Premier League footballers on a full-time professional contract alongside Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, Aston Villa’s Arjan Raikhy, Tottenham’s Dilan Markanday and Wolves defender Kam Kandola.

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Sky Football takes a look at British South Asians in the Beautiful Game

If Iqbal takes to the pitch at Old Trafford, he will become the first British South Asian footballer to play for an English side in the Champions League in 19 years, when Michael Chopra made a substitute appearance for Newcastle United away at Bayer Leverkusen.

‘Monumental for South Asians in the game’

A spokesperson for official England supporters’ group Apna England told Sky Sports News: “This is obviously a proud moment for everyone associated with Manchester United Football Club but it is also absolutely monumental for South Asians in the game.

“Zidane Iqbal is an exceptional talent, whose commitment, work-ethic and dedication to making it at the highest level has been rewarded by one of the biggest clubs in world football.

“With urgent action required to tackle inequalities that persist across football, there is no better way to inspire change than by highlighting those that are blazing a trail in our game.

“Seeing Zidane Iqbal out there making history will no doubt inspire millions across the world. It’s a great day for the community – and a great day for football.”

Another milestone reached in 2021

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Hamza Choudhury making history with Leicester as a British South Asian FA Cup winner needs to be highlighted and celebrated, the first-ever Muslim member of the FA Council, Yunus Lunat, told Sky Sports News.

Iqbal’s appearance in Manchester United’s squad is the latest milestone reached in arguably the biggest-ever year for Britain’s South Asian football community.

In March, Sky Sports News helped rewrite history by delivering the news that Luton Town great Ricky Hill was not only the fifth Black player but also the first British South Asian to represent England at senior level when he turned out for the Three Lions in the Eighties.

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Britain’s most recognisable Sikh Punjabi MP Tan Dhesi told Sky Sports News Amar and Arjun Singh Purewal are ‘inspirational’ as the British South Asian twin footballers prepared to make Wembley Cup final history

A month later by Sky Sports News also revealed Bhups and Sunny Singh Gill were to become the first British South Asian match officials ever to preside over the same Championship game, with the pair making history at Ashton Gate when Bristol City hosted Nottingham Forest.

That was followed in May by Sunderland Sikh-Punjabi twins Amar and Arjun Singh Purewal’s historic appearance at Wembley before Hamza Choudhury became the first British South Asian footballer to collect an FA Cup winners’ medal.

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Sky Sports News broke the story that Anwar Uddin was becoming the first British South Asian former footballer in the history of the FA Council.

Sky Sports News also revealed Anwar Uddin was becoming the first British South Asian former player to take up a seat on the FA Council.

In October, Dilan Markanday made a trailblazing appearance for Tottenham when he came off the bench against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League, and last week Fort William boss Shadab Iftikhar made history as the first British South Asian to manage in Scottish senior football.

British South Asians in Football

For more stories, features and videos, visit our groundbreaking South Asians in Football page on and stay tuned to Sky Sports News and our Sky Sports digital platforms.

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