Academy Weekly: Wayne Rooney attends Celebration Event

Tuesday 23 January 2024 13:21

Manchester United Academy’s second annual Celebration Event saw guests of honour Wayne Rooney, Eddie Johnson and Frazier Campbell participate in an inspiring ceremony for staff, players and parents alike.

Elsewhere this week, the Under-18s and Under-16s were in action at Carrington, several graduates shone across Europe and there was loan action aplenty for our young players.


Saturday afternoon’s Academy Celebration Event proved to be an inspirational affair with a primary focus on paying tribute to the personal growth of our young players from Under-9s up to Under-16s.

The majority of this focused on off-the-pitch experiences, with awards given out for educational achievements, charitable activity, contributions to the community and success in other sports.

In addition, three young players were given the ‘Spirit of United’ accolade, given to those who have shown resilience in dealing with a difficult challenge, whether it be personal or physical. The presentation of these latter awards came after a poignant tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton, who embodied better than anybody else the spirit of United and the values to which the Academy aspires.

Nick Cox, Director of Academy, spoke passionately at the start of the event, reflecting on a year with three first-team debuts, countless trips abroad and many other fantastic experiences for our young players.

Nick Cox addresses the audience at Old Trafford.

Special guest Wayne Rooney, United’s all-time leading goalscorer and former club captain, provided advice and insight from his career in a fascinating Q&A with host James Cooper.

Rooney, whose young sons now play for Academy sides, gave one key message: "Enjoy it."

Academy graduates Frazier Campbell and Eddie Johnson also discussed their careers and advice as they were presented with the Tony Whelan award - for football success away from United - and the Dave Bushell award - for lifelong learning - respectively.

At the ceremony’s end, poet Tony Walsh gave a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Jimmy Murphy, Without Whom’, which is dedicated to the great coach who served United with such dedication from 1946 onwards.


Our Under-18s responded to the midweek defeat in the FA Youth Cup fourth round with a hard-fought derby victory over Manchester City in the Under-18 Premier League.

Swindon Town achieved a surprise win on Tuesday night in the Youth Cup, with Botan Ameen scoring both goals for the spirited hosts at the County Ground. 

Adam Lawrence’s side had triumphed over Derby County in the third round but the quest has now come to an end. 

Focus quickly turned back to the league, where the young Reds are enjoying a remarkable winning run which was extended with Saturday’s derby triumph.

“Everybody was hurt midweek,” lead coach Lawrence reflected. “We’ve got certain standards that we want to upkeep. You could see the togetherness and discipline of the team.”

Reds defender Louis Jackson scored the only goal in the tightly-contested affair, highlights of which you can watch below.

U18s highlights: United v City Video

U18s highlights: United v City

Watch the best bits from our Under-18s Manchester derby at Carrington...


Martin Drury’s Under-16s side were delighted to welcome Charlton Athletic for an exciting friendly on Saturday.

This age group’s league fixtures, like the Under-18s, are regionalised, meaning opportunities to play teams from the south of England are always greatly anticipated. Exposing the young players to different styles of play and unfamiliar opponents is a key part of the Academy’s wider games programmes, which supplement league schedules with friendlies and tournaments across the world.

Charlton have a fantastic record of youth development, despite being a Category 2 Academy and having lesser financial resources than clubs competing in the Under-18 Premier League. Our current Under-18s lead coach Adam Lawrence joined United from Charlton, and there is a great deal of respect between the clubs for each other’s work with young people.

Kieran Culleton, lead Youth Development Phase Coach (U14-U16) at Charlton said: “Massive thanks to the staff for hosting us on Saturday. We were welcomed by every staff member with a huge smile and it was a fantastic experience for our players.”

Rhys Bennett is one of several young players who have secured loan moves this month.


FA Youth Cup-winning captain Rhys Bennett will get his first taste of senior football after securing a loan move to Stockport County. Bennett’s new club are two points clear of Wrexham at the summit of League Two and are thus pushing heavily for promotion.

The young centre-back has enjoyed some first-team involvement at United, appearing on the bench for the Premier League game at West Ham United before Christmas and the recent Emirates FA Cup third-round tie against Wigan Athletic.

Maxi Oyedele, meanwhile, will spend the rest of the season with Forest Green Rovers. The Polish youth international had his first taste of senior football with Altrincham last term but has now experienced the Football League for the first time.

The 19-year-old midfielder made his debut as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Gillingham.

Finally, full-back Alvaro Fernandez has signed for Portuguese giants Benfica on loan until the end of the season. After a promising summer with United's senior squad, the 20-year-old spent the first half of the campaign at La Liga outfit Granada CF, making 13 appearances in all competitions.

He was recalled earlier this month and will now see out 2023/24 with the Primeira Liga champions, who are bidding to win a record-extending 39th top-flight crown.

This will be Alvaro’s third stint away from the club, following a fruitful campaign on loan at Preston North End. Fernandez appeared 42 times for the Deepdale club as they finished 12th in the Championship during 2022/23.


Although United’s men’s first team were not in action this weekend, there were plenty of headline-grabbing moments for Academy graduates across European football.

Largie Ramazani scored against Real Madrid for U.D. Almeria in La Liga, although a 99th-minute goal from Los Blancos condemned the underdogs to a late defeat.

In the Football League, Will Keane netted for Preston North End in their 2-1 defeat at Leeds United, while two graduates linked up for Burton Albion. Joe Hugill scored just minutes into his debut for his new loan club, as they lost 3-2 at Derby County, and followed that up with an assist for former Reds midfielder Mark Helm in Saturday's 2-0 win over Charlton.

A goal made in the Academy Video

A goal made in the Academy

United Academy striker Joe Hugill flicked on for ex-Reds youth player Mark Helm to score for Burton at the weekend...


After four-and-a-half years at United, 20-year-old striker Mateo Mejia has completed a permanent move to Sevilla.

Mateo had recovered from a couple of injury setbacks to establish himself as a regular for the Under-21s, scoring three goals in 12 appearances this season. His mental strength to persevere despite those injuries will serve him well in his developing career. Everyone at the Academy wishes him the very best for the future.

Up in Scotland, 20-year-old Owen Dodgson has signed on loan for Dundee FC. Owen left the Academy in 2020 to sign for Burnley and has already enjoyed loan spells at Rochdale and Barnsley. In the same country, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson - who made 14 first-team appearances for United before his 2015 exit - has joined Ross County on loan from WKS Slask Wroclaw.


The Under-21s host Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday at 15:00 GMT. The game cannot be shown live on MUTV due to broadcasting restrictions, but fans are encouraged to attend and support our young players. Tickets are available here.

The Under-18s host Leeds United on the same day at Carrington, kicking off at 11:30 GMT. This match will be shown live on MUTV.


The Under-18s Premier League Cup quarter-final match against Arsenal will be played on Saturday 3 February at Carrington (11:00 GMT). Should the fixture be tied at full-time, 30 minutes of extra time will be played. If the score still remains level, the result will be determined by a penalty shootout.