Academy Weekly: Debuts, cup tests and bio-banding

Tuesday 03 October 2023 08:54

Dan Gore became the 247th player to graduate from the Academy to the Manchester United men's first team when making his senior debut against Crystal Palace in last week’s Carabao Cup third-round victory.

Gore, celebrating his 19th birthday on the same day, came off the bench to replace Sofyan Amrabat and became the third Academy graduate handed a first appearance by manager Erik ten Hag, following on from Charlie McNeill and Kobbie Mainoo.

“I’m not a manager who gift players opportunities,” Ten Hag reflected after. “They have to deserve it. Once they deserve it, they get the opportunity.”

Last season’s Denzil Haroun Reserve-Team Player of the Year certainly deserved it. Congratulations, Dan.

In an in-depth interview in the upcoming edition of Inside United, Nick Cox (Director of Academy) describes Gore’s debut as “really well deserved.”

Dan was back in Under-21s action at the weekend, helping the side to victory against Blackburn Rovers.

“The manager has been clear in several interviews in the last year or so, that he doesn’t do young players favours. You have to earn the right and the opportunity to play, and so, by the fact that he has made his debut, come off the bench, that would indicate he has earnt every moment of that but it’s been a very long journey and a lot of hard work to get that moment in the spotlight.

“I think it’s fair to say that even Dan himself would reference the fact that he knows that he’s got a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, in order to establish himself as a genuine first-team player, but it’s not an easy thing to do - only 247 people in our history have done it and I think only 500-odd people have played for us since the Second World War - and so it’s so important that we do acknowledge it and we do celebrate.

“I’m sure Dan and his family will have spent time celebrating, albeit Dan would have been back on the training pitch the following morning, committing to improving further.”

Tough EFL Trophy challenge

On the same night as Gore’s debut, Hannibal continued to impress on the senior stage, making a second consecutive start and helping United to victory. Alejandro Garnacho scored our opening goal, firing past fellow Academy graduate Sam Johnstone in the Crystal Palace net - who had himself replaced another graduate, Dean Henderson, due to injury - and Jonny Evans performed well after coming on, alongside Gore.

Meanwhile, the Under-21s faced their toughest test of the season against a strong Bolton Wanderers side who lifted the EFL Trophy last season at Wembley. Despite an even start, the hosts asserted a four-goal advantage by half-time and offered no mercy after the break.

It was a valuable lesson for our youngsters demonstrating how much work they still have to do on their journeys towards senior careers. The EFL Trophy is a competition United enter because it stretches the club’s young players and takes them out of their comfort zones. This was a night to learn from, and everyone involved is fully aware of that.

United’s next game in the group stages is against Salford City on 31 October (19:30 GMT). The young Reds can progress with victory.

Return to league action

The U21s made a winning return to league action, putting five past Blackburn Rovers in a Saturday lunchtime kick-off. Gore bagged United’s third, with Shola Shoretire, Omari Forson and Joe Hugill also getting on the scoresheet. Highlights are available to watch below.

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“Lots of learning,” coach Dave Hughes reflected. “We needed to a little bit more resolute at times, so a great opportunity to learn from those moments, but we created some really good opportunities in and around the final third.”

It was a week with key learnings for Academy staff and players as everyone embraced 'bio-banding week'.

Bio-banding is a process by which players are grouped based on physical growth and maturity, rather than age. The Academy pioneered the process in the 2000s and players, staff and parents continue to embrace its benefits.

The Under-18s also hit five, thanks to doubles from Ruben Curley and Shea Lacey, and a penalty from Ethan Wheatley. You can watch highlights here.

New staff appointment

Mick Matthews has joined the club and will work as Academy coach development manager. Mick’s role is focused entirely on developing the Academy’s coaching workforce across all areas of the programme, assessing current staff’s competencies and developing methods to support them to develop and ensure United maintains our standards of world-class coaching. Mick begins work on 1 November after leaving the FA, where has been a highly regarded member of their team since 1997. He has a UEFA Pro-Licence, an MSC in Coach Development and has tutored the UEFA A-Licence in the past. He also had a lengthy career, most notably with Wolves and Hull City. Everyone at the Academy looks forward to working with him.

United's U18s celebrate the opening goal in their 5-1 weekend victory over Newcastle United.

Loan watch

Brandon Williams’s 87th-minute diving header earned Ipswich Town a point as the Tractor Boys drew 1-1 at Huddersfield Town. That result briefly took them top of the Championship and although they have since been displaced by Leicester City, Ipswich have started the season in fantastic form, led by former-Academy coach Kieran McKenna.

Alvaro Fernandez was a half-time substitute for Granada and helped them come from behind to draw 3-3 against Almeria in La Liga, also hitting the woodwork at the death. Will Fish played two full matches for Hibernian, one a Scottish League Cup win over St. Mirren and the second a 0-0 league draw with Dundee, while Charlie McNeill wasn’t in action this weekend for Stevenage.

First-team training opportunities

More Academy players have been in training with the first team over the last week. Thirty-two players in total from the Professional Development Phase (U17-21) have now trained with the first team this season. Although not necessarily a marker of development - the reasons for an Academy player joining first-team training are varied - these sessions are always fantastic experience for those involved and players take valuable lessons back into their own age group.


Supporters encouraged to attend European fixture

United host Galatasaray in UEFA Youth League Group A on Tuesday, in a 14:00 BST kick-off. Fans are encouraged to attend and support the youngsters, who were beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich in the opening game in Bavaria a fortnight ago. Entry at Leigh Sports Village is free and players and staff will be hugely appreciative of anyone who can make it.

Discussing the tournament in Saturday’s edition of United Review, lead coach Travis Binnion explained what we already know about our Turkish visitors.

“Turkey’s Under-17s were very, very good in the Euros last year and with quite a few Galatasaray players, so we’ll know they’ll be strong,” he said.

United are back in UEFA Youth League action this week after losing at the FC Bayern Campus on matchday one.

“Our match against Galatasaray in an indoor tournament in January gave the lads a great insight into what it’s like to play in front of fans with a certain passion and games with a certain intensity.

“So, like you say, it’s a really varied group, and an exciting and challenging one. All the games will be tough.

“The Youth League gives you definite high-level opposition and consistent age parameters. That gives you a quick insight into a player’s capability and ability to play at a higher level with other good players. Because sometimes you play players up [an age group], but they're not playing with or against the best team when they play up, so it's then difficult to truly demonstrate your quality.

“In the Youth League, the age cap, the style of football, the foreign element to it - different styles of play and different methods of development - gives a real quality challenge for our best players. We’ll see stuff across the six games that we just don’t normally see in our domestic games programme, and that’s really the beauty of it.”

Manchester United U19s v Galatasaray U19s is on Tuesday 3 October at Leigh Sports Village and fans can attend for free. Kick-off is at 14:00 BST.

The Academy always seeks to make U19s and U21s fixtures such as these as easily accessible as possible, but not all games can be hosted at Leigh Sport Village or Old Trafford and safeguarding concerns, plus continuing building work, mean supporters cannot attend games hosted at Carrington.

That includes our Under-18s fixture this weekend, at home to Derby County. Fans wishing to watch the game can do so on MUTV, where coverage begins 15 minutes before the Saturday midday kick-off.