Josh Bohui and Largie Ramazani.

Finish line in sight for Academy teams

The end of the season is in sight for the Under-23s and Under-18s at Manchester United, with development the name of the game at these levels.

Ricky Sbragia’s side are in Premier League 2 action on Friday 5 April, with the West Brom clash being staged at Old Trafford. It represents an opportunity for a number of players to have their first experience of playing in the famous arena and promises to be an occasion to cherish.

”I’ve never played there,” defender Luca Ercolani recently told MUTV. “I just did some warm-ups before! I am looking forward to hopefully doing that this season.

”I can’t wait. Hopefully my family can come over for that game, but I just can’t describe what it could be like now! I am sure it is going to be very exciting.”

Luca Ercolani blocks against Reading.
Ercolani in action against Reading in the Under-23 Premier League International Cup.

There are only two remaining fixtures after that Old Trafford outing in the division for Sbragia’s men – a trip to Newcastle United’s St James’ Park on Monday 15 April and the final game, at home to Wolves, on 26 April at Leigh Sports Village.

Wolves currently lead the standings, with United in sixth place in the table.

A number of Under-18s have moved into the Under-23s to gain more experience of late which, in turn, has led to openings for younger boys in Neil Ryan’s selection. Although the young Reds still have an outside chance of the title, it is far from the priority at this level.

”I don’t get caught up with looking at the league too much,” said Ryan. “We get asked about it so you can’t hide from it. But I don’t get too caught up with that.

”The team can be completely different from one week to the next. Some boys are playing with the Under-23s or training with the first team and that’s much better, for me, than getting three points by having all those players stay in the Under-18s.

“It’s what we’re about, developing boys, and, if they’re not with us, they’re going on to the next level. The league is something that can be important to some people but, for me, it’s the long-term picture and the individual development of players.”

Colin Little and Neil Ryan.
Under-18s head coach Neil Ryan with Colin Little on the touchline.

The Under-18s return to action at Wolves on Saturday, live on MUTV at 11:30 GMT, before matches against Sunderland, Manchester City, Derby County and Everton. However, there will be additional supplementary fixtures added at the end of the campaign.

”We’ve got about eight games until the end of the season in total for everyone,” explained Ryan. “So the finish line is in our sights now. We’ll have some friendlies arranged.

”It’s traditional, towards the end of the season, and sometimes it’s the schoolboys who are going to be scholars next year or the Under-17s boys who will get an opportunity. We played at Birmingham’s stadium last year and we’ll look to get some really good prestigious friendlies towards the end of the season so we can mix the group in readiness for next year.”

Neil Ryan coaches his boys.
Neil Ryan puts the players through their preparations up at Newcastle.

UNDER-23S FIXTURES

Fri 5 April - West Brom (H)
Mon 15 April - Newcastle (A)
Fri 26 April - Wolves (H)

UNDER-18S FIXTURES

Sat 30 Mar - Wolves (A)
Sat 6 Apr - Sunderland (H)
Sat 13 Apr - Man City (A)
Sat 20 Apr - Derby (A)
Sat 27 Apr - Everton (H)

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