Euroscout: Iker Muniain


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Ahead of Manchester United's Europa League tie with Athletic Bilbao, we take a close look at the Basque club's talented young forward Iker Muniain.

Player: Iker Muniain
Date of birth: December 19, 1992 (age: 19)
Place of birth: Pamplona
Nationality: Spanish, Basque
Height: 1.69m (5ft 6in)
Position: Forward
Current club: Athletic Bilbao
Previous clubs: None

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It takes rare talent to break into a Spain side that are reigning European and world champions but, at just 19 years of age, Muniain was handed his debut in a friendly against Venezuela in February as Vicente del Bosque rewarded the forward for his impressive development at Athletic Bilbao in recent seasons.

Muniain has flourished after coming through the youth ranks in Bilbao, first serving notice of his extreme potential in October 2009 when becoming the youngest goalscorer in the history of La Liga. He was just 16 years and 289 days old when netting in a game against Real Valladolid.

Under meticulous and obsessive Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa his evolution has continued apace this season and Muniain now forms a key part of a Bilbao attacking line which hunts in packs, moving closely together to play quick passes and being liberal with their exact positions and roles. He is arguably Bilbao's most lively attacking midfielder, yet also their least intelligent in some respects.

Though he has scored only two goals in La Liga this season for a club that are pushing for Champions League qualification and have a Copa del Rey final against Barcelona to look forward to, Muniain has also collected two assists and enjoys his role as the instigator of nuisance in attack, with his team-mates compensating in their more measured approach, especially fellow international Javi Martinez.

In the weekend's Basque derby against Real Sociedad, which Bielsa's side won 2-0, Bilbao only started to get on top when they began to dictate the tempo, and this was done in spite of Muniain's presence. Though he played three lovely through passes in the first half, they were nonetheless of little use - twice due to the offside flag and then the fact that Ander Herrera was not ready to receive the ball.

Muniain needed to look up and around and consider his options more. He fell foul of that mistake again in the second half, in particular on 55 minutes, which was a shame as his movement and touch before selecting the wrong pass were beautiful.

As Sociedad grew tired and frustrated, especially with a 47th minute shot from Carlos Vela seemingly crossing the line but not being given, Muniain became more dangerous, preying on errors such as poorly-conceived short corner routines, and drawing plenty of fouls including two yellow cards in the closing stages. He gave right-back Daniel Estrada a rough time throughout the game and especially in the second half, where the defender was one of two booked at the hands of Muniain.

Linked with plenty of top European clubs in the past 12 months, Muniain could thrive on the stage provided to him at Old Trafford.

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Analysis from Athletic Bilbao's 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad in La Liga on Sunday, March 4.

16 - Muniain produces a lovely through pass which is thwarted as Susaeta is prevented from getting there first for a chance at goal.

25 - He is involved in an attacking swarm of quick passes which leads to Andoni Iraola crossing low for Susaeta as he opens the scoring.

36 - Fouled and wins a free-kick, which in turn leads to another following a handball before Susaeta hits the bar.

45 - Sociedad keeper Claudio Bravo saves from a Fernando Llorente header, then a Muniain rebound inside the six-yard box before blocking a Susaeta drive. Great positioning from Muniain to prey on the spilled effort.

60 - A great ball from Martinez down the middle and Muniain gallops just inside the left-hand side of the box and wrong-foots Estrada, only for the defender to recover and put the cross behind for a corner.

74 - Muniain leads a counter-attack from a Sociedad short corner and feeds Toquero, who loses the ball.

80 - Muniain wins the free-kick from which Susaeta doubles the advantage and his own tally.

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