Pint-sized Aaron Nemane has never been fazed by facing physically bigger opponents.
From scoring twice on his u18s debut when he was just 14, to making his first appearance for the u21s just weeks after turning 17, the winger has long since been adept at proving that quick thinking and fleetness of foot can cancel out an apparent advantage in size.
He told mcfc.co.uk: “The biggest challenge with playing against older players is they are stronger than me and I am so small, so I have to move the ball very quickly to try and get past them.”
Never one to shy away from that challenge, Aaron has represented City at every Academy age-group since first pulling on a City shirt on his 11th birthday.
He remembered: “I started playing football when I was five years old. I was born in France and started playing football there, but then I moved to England and started playing for City. I came on trial on my 11th birthday and it was a great experience and I signed. I’ve been here ever since.”
Born in France but growing up in nearby Blackley, Aaron doesn’t yet have to make a definitive decision on his national side of choice, but when questioned he admits that currently his heart beats for Les Bleus.
“Everyone asks me that question!” he laughed. “I was born in France so probably France.”
After turning in a number of eye-catching performances for City in the 2012 Canon Lion City Cup in Singapore, Aaron was handed his u18s debut back in September 2012, before his 15th birthday.
Although a brilliant personal performance was capped by a second half brace, the youngster admits his memories are slightly tarnished by the final result, as City went down 3-2 to Fulham.
“To be honest it came out of nowhere,” said Aaron. “I was supposed to go to Benfica with the 1997s and I was training with them, but then I was told I was going away with the u18s. I was really surprised.
“I played the last 20 minutes or so and I scored two. I didn’t think it was going to happen at all! It was really good to score, but we lost 3-2 so that was the sad thing and it spoiled it a bit.”
However, the 17-year-old has since made a plethora of happy memories with the u18s as the youngest member of the squad who lifted the North Division title last May.
He reflected: “It was brilliant to win the league because I was still an u16. To be a part of it was amazing because they were a really strong squad with a lot of good players. It shows the manager believed in me and that I had the ability to play with them.”
Originally a midfielder, his aptitude in the wide positions was quickly spotted – the youngster is always eager to receive the ball and dribble at his opposite number, while he also has three league goals to his name so far this term in 11 starts.
Aaron continues to show off his ability to shine against those older and stronger than himself, and has been a regular member of the UEFA Youth League u19 squad as well as making his Lancashire Senior Cup debut for the u21s.
While he admits breaking into the starting XI will be tough, the youngster is targeting his first European trophy.
He said: “The u19s are a great team and I think we have a good chance to go and win it. We haven’t lost a game, scored lots of goals and we have many good players. I think it will be hard to for me to get into the team because they have such good players but it has been great to be involved in the squad and come on from the bench.”
Now training full time at the newly launched City Football Academy, Aaron is quick to point to the benefits of the stunning new facility.
“It’s really impressive and it’s so big, sometimes I get lost walking about!” Nemane joked. “It’s got to be the best in England and probably the best in the world. I think it’s good that we’re close to the first team and we can even watch them train sometimes, and learn from them.”
The CFA has built with two eyes firmly focused on the future, and the adopted Mancunian is keen to ensure the u18s mark the first season at the new campus with silverware, while continuing to enhance his own personal development.
“The season is going well at the moment - we’ve won most of our games and played very well, so hopefully we can go on and win the league and the Youth Cup,” he declared.
“My aims are simple to be honest - just to play as well as I can for the u18s and try to play for the u21s, and hopefully try to win the UEFA Youth League as well.”