A day in the life of an Academy footballer
Manchester United’s Academy has produced 129 international footballers, the development of each of these players was driven by a unique programme providing them with the necessary experiences to grow and succeed.
As players reach the Professional Development Phase and begin their scholarships their routines become more structured. A team of dedicated youth development experts have established a world-class scholarship programme which is designed to help players play professional football at the highest level.
Here is a look at the typical day in the life of a United scholar in 2021...
Players arrive at the training ground ahead of a busy day. Those who have already have their driving licences arrive in their own cars whilst the majority of boys are picked up from their digs on the bus or by shared vehicles.
8:40 – Breakfast
Players enjoy a nutritious meal to prepare for the morning training session. They are taught about the value of the food that they eat throughout their time in the Academy with regular sessions with the club nutritionist. Typical meals include omelettes, eggs on wholemeal toast, oats, yoghurt with berries, and smoothies.
Players work in small groups on technical skills getting a feel for the ball again. Head tennis is a popular and competitive option as the boys begin to warm up for the sessions ahead.
9:30 – Group video analysis
Coaches present video clips from previous United Under-18s games or their next opponents. Players are briefed on what they will work on in the days’ training sessions as well as the wider tactical aims for the week ahead and upcoming fixtures. Currently, this is done on the indoor pitch to enable social distancing, where previously the sessions took place in the analysis suite.
Players are put through their paces by United’s athletic development coaches, preparing for the session ahead and undertaking injury prevention exercises.
10:30 – Group training session
Group training begins with the players out on the grass. Sessions are led by a range of expert coaches including Justin Cochrane, Travis Binnion and Colin Little. The focus of the session varies depending on how close the next game is and what the tactical aims are for that period. Usually the session is finished with a competitive game.
Players eat together in the Academy canteen. They had previously eaten in the first-team building but this is not currently possible due to COVID testing bubbles. Players fuel up for the afternoon, typically enjoying a high-protein meal with slow-release carbs to keep energy levels up. Chicken or salmon with pasta and steamed vegetables is a particular favourite of the group.
13:00 – Individual analysis sessions
Throughout the week, each player will take part in at least one individual analysis session. This includes coaches, physios, sports scientists and a psychologist, who work together to establish aspects of a player’s game they can improve, set them challenges and praise their progress.
Groups are typically split into defenders, midfielders, and attackers to work on specialist sessions for each of their individual areas on the pitch. This individualised approach enables the scholars to gain the maximum benefits from their training sessions.
15:00 – Group and individual gym sessions
Players return to the gym with the athletic development coaches to begin strength and conditioning work. Each player has a personalised programme to develop their bodies and prepare them for first-team football.
15:30 – Education or extra-curricular sessions
The Education and Player Care departments have established an excellent learning environment for the scholars, enabling them to balance their football commitments with their education. The Academy takes a holistic approach with many players attending Ashton-on-Mersey school and continuing formal education. Some of the boys have taken-up short-term courses in Spanish, football marketing and business entrepreneurship. Players are regularly engaged in important life-lesson sessions such as cooking, financial management and driver awareness courses.