Academy Weekly: Loan impressions, European delight
Severe weather in the United Kingdom saw Manchester United's Under-18s without a fixture this weekend, but it's still been a busy week at the Academy.
A couple of Academy players have impressed out on loan this weekend, there's been a come-from-behind victory in the UEFA Youth League, a narrow defeat in Premier League 2 and several Academy graduates popping up in the headlines in the Football League.
Here's everything you need to know about the last seven days at the Academy...
Lead image: Teden Mengi, captain of the Under-23s, wears a rainbow armband in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign, which highlights our commitment to supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion and makes clear that football is for everyone. Everyone is welcome at Manchester United.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Impressive comeback in Europe
Second-half goals from Charlie McNeill and Sam Mather saw United Under-19s come from behind to beat Villarreal away from home in the UEFA Youth League last Tuesday. Highlights are available to watch below.
Neil Wood revealed his half-time team talk centered on getting the players to show what they could do.
"I said to them at half-time," he told club media, "that I felt like we weren't showing the quality that we had. The system was fine, we were defending fine but we weren't showing what we could do with the ball. That was my message to them: show your quality.
"You are gonna have to be brave, you're gonna have to play with some balls to play in this game now, get on the ball, take charge of the game and impact how we want to play. That was the pleasing thing at the end. We started the second half really well, and that showed the intent that we were going to play the second half with. We were a bit more patient with the ball as well. Not so many sloppy mistakes."
Captain Teden Mengi said: "It was one of the big things, the character that everyone showed, every single person from goalkeeper to striker, especially Radek, he kept us in the game, I'm really proud of him today and so is everyone else."
Everyone was impressed by the performance of Radek Vitek in goal, with goalscorer Charlie McNeill commenting that "he was so good today."
"The two one-on-ones that he had in the first half were really good," McNeill said, "he was loud from the back, excellent."
Narrow defeat for Under-23s
Crystal Palace scored at the very start of both halves in Saturday lunchtime's Premier League 2 fixture. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi opened the scoring, finishing into an empty net after Palace had pounced on a loose touch by Tom Heaton. Charlie McNeill levelled for United after 13 minutes. The move began when Teden Mengi stepped out of defence to win the ball in midfield. Anthony Elanga poked Isak Hansen's long ball into the path of McNeill who also had an empty net to finish into after a mix-up between goalkeeper and defender.
Both sides had several chances before the break, after which John-Kymani Gordon restored Palace's lead with a good finish after the visitors once again won the ball high up the pitch. United's best chance to equalise came when Hansen fed through McNeill and he touched the ball back to Elanga. The Swede shot well but Whitworth saved.
Head of Player Development and Coaching Justin Cochrane said "we need to be better than that, predominantly with the ball."
"If we keep the ball away from the team like Crystal Palace who have quick players who can counter attack quickly, if we starve them with the ball, we'd have more control, create more chances and ultimately score more goals. That didn't happen today unfortunately but it's back to the lab as I say, on Monday, back to the lab and help them improve."
Neil Wood pays tribute to Ole
"A lot of the Academy staff, we had great relationships with Ole," Neil Wood said when asked about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure last week.
"He supported the work that we did really well and he always gave us a lot of his time. He gave 16 Academy players their debut - it's something that we're proud of - so he really supported that and he showed there's a real pathway for the young players here, that if you come into this club and you're doing well, you know there's a manager there who really supported that."
James Garner put in a good performance for Nottingham Forest as the 16th-placed Championship side drew 0-0 with third-placed promotion challengers West Bromwich Albion. Garner created three chances, the most of any Forest player while maintaining 89% pass accuracy and completing six recoveries, two interceptions and two clearances.
In the same division, Ethan Laird played the full game for Swansea City in their dramatic 3-2 defeat to Reading. One of the scorers for the Royals was Academy graduate Danny Drinkwater, re-establishing himself in England's second league after a difficult last couple of years.
Also in the Championship, Di'Shon Bernard impressed again for Hull City, helping the Tigers to a third consecutive victory. Bernard has played in all three wins, the latest a 2-1 triumph against Millwall.
Up in the top-flight, Axel Tuanzebe was an unused sub for Aston Villa at the weekend but Brandon Williams played another full 90 minutes for Norwich City as the Canaries made it three games unbeaten. That run stretches across two managers, and Williams has played the full game in all three games, made up of two wins, against Southampton and Brentford, and a more recent draw against Wolves.
In League One, Ethan Galbraith played twice this week for Doncaster Rovers, the latest match being a 2-0 defeat to Burton Albion, for who Academy graduate Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is playing. Also in the Rovers side were two other Academy graduates, Aidan Barlow and Tommy Rowe, making it four in the two starting line-ups.
Finally, goalkeeper Dermot Mee has joined Runcorn Linnets on a short-term loan deal. Dermot will gain experience of playing in senior football during the spell having recently enjoyed a week's training experience with AFC Wimbledon in our Pro Experience Programme as well as a loan at Trafford FC.
A quarter-century up
Congratulations go to Rachel Cross who recently celebrated 25 years of service at the Club.
Rachel has held various positions across Manchester United and is now the Under-23s Operations Lead.
A short event was held in which a message from Sir Alex Ferguson was played and members of the Professional Development Phase group presented Rachel with a gift to celebrate the occasion and commemorate the fantastic service she has given to the Club.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
The Under-23s travel to Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, kicking off at the Lancashire FA County Ground in Leyland at midday on Sunday. The Under-18s are also away from home this weekend, facing Everton at 11:00 GMT on Saturday morning at their Finch Farm training ground.