Academy Weekly: Internationals approach
It's been a busy week for the Manchester United Academy, with international call-ups across European football, young Reds starring out on loan and victories for the Under-23s and Under-18s.
As club football pauses for the international break, here's your chance to catch up on everything that's been going on at the Academy over the last week. See last week's round-up, which includes coverage of the UEFA Youth League, here.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Nine Academy players have been called up for their national teams, including four who will have the chance to represent England. James Garner, Teden Mengi, Sam Mather and Daniel Gore have all been called up for the Three Lions at various age groups. Full details on the call-ups and fixtures are available here.
Elsewhere in Europe, goalkeeper Matej Kovar will be in action for Czech Republic's Under-21s side. Martin Svidersky has been called up at the same level for Slovakia, and Isak Hansen is in the Norway Under-19s squad as they take on the two aforementioned countries.
Dylan Levitt, who made one appearance for Wales at Euro 2020, is in the Dragons' senior squad once again. The midfielder is currently on loan at Scottish Premiership side Dundee United. Finally, Ethan Galbraith has been rewarded for his impressive appearances at Doncaster Rovers with another call-up to the Northern Ireland senior squad.
Congratulations to all our young Reds who have received call-ups.
Di'Shon Bernard had an excellent game as Hull City secured a clean sheet and 2-0 victory away at Barnsley in the Championship. It capped off a good week for the centre-back after he was nominated for the Tigers' October Player of the Month.
Brandon Williams helped Norwich City to their first Premier League win of the season against Brentford, although the result couldn't save manager Daniel Farke's job. Williams posted on social media: "An important win for the team, and a nice parting gift to a manager who believed in me."
Ethan Laird played the full game for Swansea City as they suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat to Championship table-toppers AFC Bournemouth. James Garner came off the bench for Nottingham Forest in a 3-0 win against Preston North End, while Facundo Pellistri played 59 minutes for Deportivo Alaves in their 2-1 win against Levante.
Tahith Chong has returned to the club after suffering a groin injury while on loan at Birmingham City. The Curacao-born midfielder had been enjoying fine form in the Midlands, impressing fans as much as manager Lee Bowyer. United confirmed last Wednesday that Tahith has undergone surgery to repair a ruptured thigh tendon. The operation went successfully and he will continue rehabilitation at United over the next four or five months.
A couple of young Reds were in action in the FA Cup first round, with Ethan Galbraith turning out for Doncaster Rovers in a 1-0 away win against Scunthorpe. He also played against Crewe in a 1-1 draw earlier in the week and now heads to Northern Ireland for international duty with the senior squad there.
Elanga up for award
Swedish winger Anthony Elanga has been nominated for Premier League 2 Player of the Month after contributing two goals and an assist in three appearances in October.
The shortlist is decided by the Premier League's Football Development Panel after PL2 club coaches nominated the best performance by an opposing player in each of their matches during the month. The Panel will also decide the winner.
The other nominees are: Jamal Baptiste (West Ham United), Ziyad Larkeche (Fulham), Dilan Markanday (Tottenham Hotspur), Salah-Eddine Oulad M'Hand (Arsenal), Aaron Ramsey (Aston Villa) and Dyneil Simeu (Southampton).
Under-23s seal victory with late Amad goal
Amad scored twice as the Under-23s beat Leeds United 3-2 at Leigh Sports Village. The Ivorian winger put United ahead after only six minutes, the Reds breaking down Leeds' man-to-man marking system to allow Amad to race through on goal and beat Kristoffer Klaesson.
Sean McGurk, who signed for Leeds from Wigan Athletic, for whom he scored against United in the 2019/20 FA Youth Cup, drew the Yorkshire side level after 23 minutes.
10 minutes on, Charlie McNeill re-asserted United's lead, finishing emphatically after being played in by Amad. The Reds performed well and kept possession patiently, but could have been more clinical in finishing chances. Failure to do so kept Leeds in the game and they took advantage in the 70th minute as Nohan Kennen equalised.
It thus required a late moment of magic from Amad to get the three points. Isak Hansen sprayed a ball to the 19-year-old on the right side of the box. Amad controlled it, lifted it above his marker's head, took it back down and fired in for the winner.
"There are not many players on the pitch who could have done what he did," Wood commented.
Read more reaction from Wood on Saturday's win, here.
Praise for Kovar
Wood reserved special praise for goalkeeper Matej Kovar.
"I think Matej’s been brilliant in the last couple of games, not only in his saves – he made some great saves last week – but what he does with the ball, his passing, his range of passing, the passes that he sees," the Under-23s boss explained.
"He’s getting pressure, they’re trying to press him, and he just picks out passes into midfield. He’s a big bonus for us, he really helps us in the way that we want to play, the style we want to play, and he’s been doing excellent."
Kovar will spend the international break with the Czech Republic Under-21s set-up.
Under-18s win comfortably at Forest
Travis Binnion was pleased as his Under-18s side "looked really comfortable" in a 2-0 victory away at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Manni Norkett gave United the lead after 32 minutes, heading in from a right-sided corner. Sam Mather wrapped the game up with 19 minutes remaining, tapping home in front of an open goal after a good attack by Habeeb Ogunneye down the right wing.
Binnion made three changes to the side that had drawn 2-2 against Derby County last week. Spanish winger Alejandro Garnacho was suspended after his red card, while Rhys Bennett and Ethan Ennis were also missing. Under-16s midfielder Jack Moorhouse made his debut at this level.
"Forest are an opposition that puts you under a lot of pressure," Binnion said.
"They're very physical and ask a lot of questions of you. We're very pleased with how the boys equipped themselves and found a way to win, and, really, we should have won by more. Just the bits of quality we had were really encouraging in the second half."
Academy graduate achievements
Three Academy graduates featured for Watford in their narrow defeat to Arsenal in Sunday's Premier League fixture. Joshua King (29 years old) started up front for the Hornets, with Craig Cathcart (32) in defence, the latter being replaced by Ashley Fletcher (26) late on as Claudio Ranieri's side sought an equaliser.
Elsewhere in England's top-flight, Michael Keane (28) helped Everton keep a clean sheet against Tottenham Hotspur, Dwight McNeil (21) played the full game for Burnley as they held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw. There were Academy graduates playing in five of this weekend's 10 Premier League fixtures.
There were, of course, many more graduates playing across world football, from England's lower divisions to La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Major League Soccer and in Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Hungary and Scotland.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Under-23s manager Neil Wood says the international break will provide a good opportunity for two things: individual development and rest.
With the Academy approaching this season with small squads designed to give significant amounts of game-time and allow talented younger players to step up and test themselves, many players have played a lot of football.
Wood says some of those will use the international pause as the chance to rest, while others will use the break from regular matches as a chance to focus on specific elements of their game.
"We’ll have a smaller group and, when the international break comes round, we get the chance to go into smaller details with some of the individuals and have little, smaller groups training," Wood explained this week.
"I also think it’s a time to just rest a little bit. We’ve had two games a week on a very small squad, a lot of the players are playing in the Under-19s UEFA Youth League, playing again in the Under-23s, a few of them played even for the Under-17s during the week, so it’s a chance to get a rest for those that need it and we can work out on the field with the small group of lads that we’ve got."