Bobby Charlton, George Best, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood – just eight names among many others who were shaped and shaped in Manchester United’s famous academy ranks.
United is synonymous with producing world-class talent and emphasizing promotion from within has been part of the club’s substance and identity since Busby Babes’ came into being under the legendary Matt Busby from the late 1940s onwards.
The term ‘Busby Babes’ was even coined by Manchester Evening News’ Tom Jackson in 1951.
After United may have lost their way under Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær outlined his intention with his permanent appointment to once again trust the club’s youngsters, and the United boss has certainly been true to his promise.
Although Rashford had already established himself well before Solskjær’s return to the club, the Norwegian has carefully led Greenwood’s development, while he has also especially given first team debuts to 15 academy talents.
Shola Shoretire, Anthony Elanga, Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri were the latest players from the academy to make their first team debut during Solskjær last season, and – of course – supporters are always eager to ask; who is the next big star in the club?
Fans who regularly take part in United’s U23 matches in Leigh Sports Village, a place that apparently never gets hot, may be able to give you the answer to that question, but for those who do not have the privilege we’ve worked out a report.
So here’s everything you need to know about United’s academy this season.
United’s U23s this season
How do you define success in academy football? It’s certainly not as straightforward as some might think.
United’s U23s meandered in the middle of Premier League 2 last season, finishing in eighth place in a 13-team division, and while it may seem disappointing at first glance, football at this level is about educating and accelerating development.
Neil Wood is the manager of the U23s and he spoke ahead of the new season and outlined the plan for his side. “As for next season, most of the second years that have been on the youth team will come in the 23s,” Wood said.
“One or two may depart, but it has not yet been decided. I think we will have some conversations over the next few weeks as staff to decide who is going where and whether it is the right time for certain people, but yes, we are basically starting again with a new squad.
“I do not think there will be many with experience in football under the age of 23, but it will be a new challenge and we look forward to it.”
Wood’s prediction was correct, as this summer 15 players left United on loan away from the club, some of whom would have joined the red U23s in the new campaign if it had not been decided that it was in their best interest. to move.
To add to that shake-up, Shoretire and Elanga were officially promoted to United’s first team in May, which meant Woods’ U23 side would almost start all over again this time. Despite the promotion, Shoretire and Elanga would still be available in most matches if they were not needed for first-team commitments, which is most often the case.
Hannibal was named United’s U-23 Player of the Year last year and he was ready for a major role again this season, but he was absent for the U23s’ opening match in the Premier League 2 season against Leicester, as were Teden Mengi, Elanga and Joe Hugill.
Instead, it was actually 35-year-old Paul McShane who got the eye in the first game of his new pioneering role at United. In the summer, Justin Cochrane was appointed the new head of player development, and he picked up McShane, who himself graduated from United’s academy in 2006, in a player-coaching position to offer invaluable advice and a unique perspective in selected matches.
McShane’s return was a modern, forward-thinking move from United, and it has since paid dividends.
United, however, had to wait until their fifth match in the Premier League 2 season to record their first win, which, however, was a 2-1 win against Brighton at Leigh Sports Village. After drawing to Leicester, Chelsea and losing to Manchester City and Arsenal, Woods’ side finally had three points on the board thanks to Elanga’s opener and Zidane Iqbal’s winner in stoppage time.
Iqbal, 18, joined United’s academy at the age of just nine – the earliest legally allowed – and he was promoted to Wood’s U23 side this summer for the new season. The Manchester-born boy is a promising creative talent in midfield – he is an exciting prospect.
After the Brighton victory, United won consecutive matches against Everton and Liverpool – two results inspired by Elanga’s brilliance. The Swede has three goals in three appearances in Premier League 2 during this period and he continues to make a case of first team minutes.
Manchester United enjoyed a sensational transfer window that secured the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ole Gunnar Solskjær is now under pressure to deliver silverware after an uneven start to the season. United face some big matches after the international break.
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Another player who has excelled in front of United’s goal this season is Hugill, 17, who United signed from Sunderland last year for a fee that is understood to be £ 300,000 – that the transfer fee for the youngster has seen great value for money. since.
Although Hugill stands at 6ft 2in, he is technically unique on the ball and comfortable in possession when in tight spaces. The center-forward has scored four goals in eight appearances this season and he is already showing signs that he may soon make the transition to the senior match. Hugill is highly respected at the academy, and when you see him, it’s not hard to see why.
United’s U21s beat Bradford 3-0 in the EFL Papa John’s trophy last month thanks to an impressive performance in the second half and goals from Hugill, Charlie Savage and Dillon Hoogewerf coach McShane played at the back of that match and it was crucial .
Hannibal was unavailable against Bradford, but he is expected to take part in United’s EFL match against Sunderland this week. After making his debut on the first team against Wolves last season, he continued to go from strength to strength in the academy.
Finally, it is also worth highlighting the performances of Marc Jurado and Alvaro Fernandez this season, who came to United last year from Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Both have proven excellent as backs, and Fernandez in particular has really excelled.
The couple is often seen roaming down the canals in games and they have all the attributes of the modern back.
The latest on United’s patrons
Tahith Chong, 21, was one of the academy’s most exciting youth opportunities after his move from Feyenoord in 2016, but he has since failed to establish himself in United’s first team, which has seen him leave the club on loan to Werder Bremen and Club Brugge.
The Dutch winger is now on loan at Birmingham, and he is enjoying his time there – he revealed this week that Solskjær had been monitoring his progress. Elsewhere, Ethan Galbraith, 20, has become popular with Doncaster fans after his performances in League One, and the midfielder has played eight games in the third row.
James Garner is now playing under Steve Cooper on loan at Nottingham Forest following Chris Hughton’s dismissal.
Di’Shon Bernard is on loan to Championship champions Hull after his time at Salford last season, and he played a full 90 minutes in his side’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at the weekend.
Dylan Levitt from Dundee United and Reece Devine in St. Johnstone teaches both away from United in Scotland.
Nathan Bishop has played 10 games for Mansfield Town in League Two, but he has only managed to keep a clean sheet.
Will Fish has only played two games on loan at Stockport during the conference.
Looking forward to January
There is no better way to develop than playing senior football, and more United youngsters could get on loan in January.
As things stand, however, it is unlikely that Shoretire, 17, would lend at this stage of his development, but Elanga is now beginning to mature as a 19-year-old, any loan offer United can receive for the Swede can be considered by them. in the club.
After the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, United have strength in depth in the attack and first team opportunities can be difficult to get past.
As mentioned, Woods U23 side are relatively young and inexperienced this season, which means we will not actually see many loans in the January window as students continue to be educated and shaped in the club’s academy.
However, it is believed that Facundo Pellistri, 19, could be recalled after limited minutes in Deportivo Alaves.