Academy Weekly: Two wins, first team goals and education
Every week at the Academy, a great deal of important work goes unnoticed and unheralded, but it’s in weeks like this one that credit for that work is widespread.
Three graduates scored for the Manchester United first team this week, while two young players are now away with their countries featuring in significant competitions. Elsewhere across English football, graduates and loanees found the back of the net or put in good performances to help their new sides to important results.
In addition to that, the Under-23s and Under-18s both played excellently in league victories and, beneath all of these obvious successes, the hard work continues behind the scenes to continue the on and off-pitch development of hundreds of kids in Manchester, as outlined below.
Here’s everything you need to know about the last seven days at the Academy...
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Munich Air Disaster education
As the anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster approaches (6 February), Manchester United’s young players are engaging in education sessions around the subject. On Saturday, the Under-13s asked questions and chatted with Jimmy Murphy Jr, whose father helped keep the club going in the aftermath of the crash, stepping in for Sir Matt Busby on the touchline for many months. The boys had come prepared with informative posters on individual players from the era and penned short poems about the significance of the crash and, crucially, how United responded and lifted the European Cup a decade later. Over the next two weeks, tributes will be paid by all Academy sides where possible and education sessions will continue.
Academy graduate achievements
United’s first team scored four goals this week in victories against Brentford and West Ham United, and all four goals were scored by Academy graduates. Anthony Elanga gave United the lead in west London, his goal added to by efforts from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, who then scored the all-important 93rd-minute winner against West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Danny Welbeck scored Brighton’s goal in a 1-1 draw against Leicester City and Josh Brownhill and Dwight McNeill helped Burnley to an important 0-0 draw away at Arsenal. In the Championship, Tom Lawrence scored again for Derby County as they were beaten 2-1 by Nottingham Forest. In the division below, Will Keane scored a double for Wigan Athletic in a 3-2 win against Gillingham that keeps the Latics top of League One, where former Academy coach Kieran McKenna now has three wins in his last four games as Ipswich Town manager.
South coast victory for Under-23s
D’Mani Mellor starred on his return from a loan spell at Salford City, netting a first-half double to help the Under-23s to a 2-1 away win at Brighton & Hove Albion. Mellor led the team, as striker and as captain, in a dominant first-half display. Neil Wood asked his side to get at Brighton early and it paid off, Mellor first sweeping the Reds in front after a right-wing ball from Charlie Wellens, and then pouncing on a loose backpass from Lars Dendoncker and finishing past Thomas McGill from close range.
Wood praised Mellor for leading by example with his work rate and energy, but also picked out centre-back pairing Bjorn Hardley and Will Fish for their defensive efforts as United had to hold on for the win late on. Brighton were much-improved in the second half and United goalkeeper Ondrej Mastny was required to make several fine stops.
Binnion delighted with hard-working Under-18s
Head coach Travis Binnion praised his side’s attitude and application as United scored two goals in each half to win 4-2 against Everton at home on Saturday morning.
Sonny Aljofree put United ahead, poking home at the far post from a Marc Jurado cross. Alejandro Garnacho scored the game’s second, receiving Dan Gore’s pass on the turn on the halfway line and driving forward as space opened up thanks to Joe Hugill’s decoy run. Garnacho duly finished with aplomb, striking from outside the box into the bottom left corner.
“I thought we played really well in all aspects of the game,” Binnion said.
“We were at it, we approached it in the right way, we played with real quality, we were a threat throughout, we should have scored a lot more goals and I was really happy with the application of the lads.”
Everton did get themselves level, scoring once just before and once just after half-time, the goals coming from Emilio Lawrence and Francis Okoronkko.
Only two minutes after the latter equalised, Hugill restored United’s lead with a brilliantly-executed long-range shot. The English striker latched onto a loose ball after Everton’s goalkeeper had fluffed a clearance and, although under pressure from an incoming tackle, Hugill managed to lift a looping effort over the defence to bounce into the back of the net perfectly.
He later doubled his own tally and sealed the win for United with a simpler, close-range finish, pouncing on another loose ball, this time in the box after a crossed free-kick.
“In a development aspect, it’s probably good that Everton got that goal [before half-time],” Binnion assessed.
“If you come in 3-0 or 4-0, you have to be really professional to go and do it again in the second half, but because we came in as we did [2-1 up], the lads weren’t happy with the scoreline, they knew the game wasn’t dead so it was a good little challenge to go out and perform again in the second half.”
Dylan Levitt scored his first senior goal, a 111th-minute winner for Dundee United against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup, sitting down a defender with a smart ball roll before finding the corner and sparking great celebrations. The Welshman was then serenaded with a new chant from the Tangerines faithful, and manager Tam Courts said: “He can go to the very top. When you see him at close quarters you understand he’s a player with unbelievable technical ability.”
James Garner helped Nottingham Forest to a 2-1 win against Derby in the Championship, where Teden Mengi started for Birmingham City in a 2-1 win against Barnsley and Di’Shon Bernard kept a clean sheet with Hull City as they beat AFC Bournemouth by one goal.
Axel Tuanzebe was an unused substitute for Napoli in their 4-1 win against Salernitana. Brandon Williams played the full game for Norwich City as the Canaries managed a second consecutive win, beating Watford 3-0. Williams has now made 16 Premier League appearances this season.
In League One, Ethan Galbraith played for Doncaster Rovers in a 1-0 loss to fifth-placed MK Dons.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Hannibal’s Tunisia are still in the Africa Cup of Nations after a shock 1-0 round of 16 win against Nigeria. Our 18-year-old midfielder was an unused sub in that game. The Carthage Eagles will now face Burkina Faso in Saturday’s quarter-final in Garoua.
Zidane Iqbal, who made his United debut in December’s UEFA Champions League draw v BSC Young Boys, is set for a senior international debut. The Whalley Range-born midfielder is of Pakistani and Iraqi heritage and, after making several appearances for Iraq’s Under-23s side, has now been called up by the Iraq senior side.
Iqbal could make his debut as Iraq take on Iran on Thursday afternoon in a World Cup qualifier. Supporters will be able to hear from Zidane as he explains his decision to play for Iraq to us in an exclusive interview this week.
Under-18s to play rearranged cup fixture
United head to West Bromwich Albion’s training ground on Thursday morning to play our U18 Premier League Cup fixture against the Baggies. The match has twice been postponed and United are set to top our group in the competition. Should we do so, by avoiding a significant defeat on Thursday, we'll play Chelsea away from home in the quarter-finals of the competition, with the tie scheduled to be played on 12 February.
Fixture information for our FA Youth Cup fifth round match against Everton will be communicated this week, with the match to be played at Old Trafford. Updated information on the Under-23s' next fixture against West Ham will also follow. The match was originally set to be held at Old Trafford on February 4 but the first team will now play against Middlesbrough on the same night.