Manchester United Mid-Season Academy Review – January 2021Manchester United Mid-Season Academy Review – January 2021
Manchester United Mid-Season Academy Review – January 2021.
During the summer months, as Manchester United fans were exasperated at the ongoing – and ultimately futile – Jadon Sancho transfer saga; incomings at academy level were proving far more straight forward to get over the line, with 9 players arriving by the end of the transfer window.
Looming Brexit regulations (which prevent English clubs from signing under 18 players from Europe) forced United to commit to signing players sooner than possibly planned – players, who in previous years, the club may have preferred to scout for a longer period. Brexit or not, however, this recruitment drive has been badly needed. Since Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba inspired United to win the FA Youth Cup in 2011, the club have fallen behind Chelsea and Manchester City in the recruitment stakes at academy level. This has been reflected in results since. Over the past 9 seasons, United haven’t made it past the Youth Cup semi- final, whereas Chelsea have reached 8 of the 9 finals, winning 6. City have made it to 5, winning 1 – losing to Chelsea in 3 of those finals in a row between 2015 and 2017.
Of course, results are secondary to player development at this level – providing first team players is the name of the game. On that front, you could easily argue that United are ahead of Chelsea and City, however we cannot expect that to remain the case if the latter continue their dominance (results -wise) and monopoly on signing the best underage talents. United’s summer academy additions have provided the requisite tonic to improve results so far this season, with United’s under 18’s 3 points clear of Liverpool, with a game in hand, in the under 18’s Premier Division North. This is in spite of the bulk of the eligible under 18 players actually playing for United’s under 23 team for most of the season instead (including 16-year-old Shola Shoretire and 17-year-olds Alvaro Fernandez, Hannibal Mejbri, Will Fish and Joe Hugill). This has meant that the core of the under 18 match- day squads have comprised of players who have another year, or two, to come at this level.As for the under 23’s, although results have been inconsistent (to be expected given the age of the squad), performances have simply been a joy to watch, with the side recording 6-3 and 6-4 victories over Liverpool and Blackburn respectively in their last two outings. These high scoring victories have by no means been anomalies – with United scoring 4 in victory over Spurs and 5 against Brighton.
Below are my initial impressions of the summer additions, followed by an overview of how some of the other key players in the under 18 and 23 sides have developed so far this season: