Academy Weekly: U21s cap off proud week

Tuesday 30 April 2024 09:34

In a proud week for our world-famous Academy, Ethan Wheatley became the 250th graduate to represent Manchester United’s first team, the Under-18s completed an impressive double and the Under-21s played twice and qualified for the Premier League 2 knockout stages.

Here’s everything you need to know about seven jam-packed days at Carrington…

250 UP!

In appearing off the bench in Wednesday’s Premier League victory over Sheffield United, Ethan Wheatley took the distinct honour of becoming our landmark 250th Academy alumnus, doing so with seven fellow graduates of the club’s youth system in the matchday squad.

Ethan was the 17th young player to make their debut already this decade after 42 in the 2010s. You can discover the full package of incredible statistics in our guide here. Meanwhile, reacting to the achievement, Ethan himself told MUTV it hadn’t quite sunk in yet.

“Even since Wembley,” he said, having been a part of the matchday squad for the Emirates FA Cup semi-final, “it's just… nothing's really kicked in yet!

“It’s a great club with a massive history, especially in the Academy as well.

“It’s just an honour to make my debut. And then that number 250 is just a little extra as well.”

Our road to 250 Academy graduates Video

Our road to 250 Academy graduates

Ethan Wheatley becomes the 250th Academy graduate to represent United at senior level - it's been a proud journey...

The landmark moment was celebrated worldwide and, of course, across the Academy staff.

“To hit that milestone was fantastic,” said Travis Binnion, head of player & coach development.

“There are four weeks or so to the FA Cup final and there’s a lot to go at as a club and as an Academy. We set our sights on the 250 landmark, the U18s national league final and the U21s getting into the Premier League 2 play-offs.

“To hit that 250 milestone at home in a win was really pleasing for everyone. Obviously for Ethan, what a 24 hours to him to get the two goals the night before, to go off at half-time because we know those boys would be on the bench the next evening and to see one of them come on was richly deserved. The fans cheered his every press and run and tackle. It was great!

“The manager’s gone on record to say he’s not one to put kids on the pitch unless they’ve hit a certain level in his mind. The conversations we’ve had with the first-team staff, those boys are getting closer all the time in terms of the way they're training and impressing the manager and his staff. It was richly deserved in terms of the season Ethan’s had but, more importantly, what he’s shown the manager in the last month or six weeks of being around them most days.”

Nick Cox, meanwhile, called the 250 marker “special” in his most recent column.

“What makes it so special is that it’s not been manufactured. It’s not a stunt. It’s something – just like the run of 4,000-plus games – that has been achieved organically as a consequence of our commitment to youth, as a consequence of that way of life.

“As for Ethan, he was back at school on Thursday morning! That’s how it works at Manchester United. And just as Ethan was back working hard, looking to the future the day after his debut, we at the Academy are already focused on ensuring these stories continue to be added to.”

Read the column in full here.


Our U21s played their final two fixtures of the regular Premier League 2 season in the last week. They first drew 0-0 at Nottingham Forest on Friday night, with goalkeeper Elyh Harrison providing a string of impressive saves, before doubles from Ethan Wheatley and Ethan Williams helped the Reds to a 6-3 win at Southampton. You can highlights of the latter game below.

Four points from the two games secured United a spot in the top 16 of the 26-team league, ensuring our participation in the end-of-season play-offs. Our 12th-placed finish sets up a knockout fixture at fifth-placed Arsenal. Kick-off date and time will be communicated in due course.

Qualification for the play-offs is a particularly proud achievement given the young age of Travis Binnion's side throughout the campaign. Monday lunchtime's team had an average age of just 18.5, lower even than the season average of 19. Exposure to U21s football for these young players is a key part of offering challenging experiences to help best prepare them for life in the senior game.

U21s highlights: Southampton v United Video

U21s highlights: Southampton v United

See all nine goals from an entertaining final game of the regular Premier League 2 season...


Our title-winning U18s completed an Academy double on Tuesday night, with a superb win over Manchester City in the Premier League Cup final.

A first-half brace from Ethan Wheatley shot our young Reds into a two-goal lead before City grabbed what proved to only be a late consolation through Stephen Mfuni.

Lifting the trophy following the full-time whistle, Adam Lawrence's side celebrated in style, watched by a sell-out crowd inside Leigh Sports Village.

"The emotions were really high in the game and also in the changing room just then,” goalkeeper Elyh Harrison reviewed after.

"Everyone was celebrating so much in there and I couldn't even get my suit on as it was soaking wet! Everyone was enjoying themselves and I am glad we won.

"It was a great feeling to have some big saves in the game to keep us in it. I am happy with myself."

U18s 90 in 20: United v Man City Video

U18s 90 in 20: United v Man City

90 in 20 | Watch extended highlights from the triumphant Under-18s Premier League Cup final against Man City...

Captain Finley McAllister, meanwhile, said: "I am absolutely buzzing and I am proud of all of the lads, even the lads that haven't participated tonight.

"We have done this over the course of the season, together. Some people have played more minutes than others but ever since that first game against Reading we have all put in a shift.

"We have been the better team each time and when we have suffered, we have suffered together. We deserve this more than any other team in the country."

On Saturday lunchtime, a young U18s side were beaten 3-1 by Sunderland. Bendito Mantato’s early goal was overturned by two strikes from Aaron Chung and another from Joseph Nield.


“If you can give the players the opportunities and win and play a certain way, it’s utopia,” reflected Travis Binnion.

“We’re always striving for that and you can’t always have it, so it’s nice to see all lads playing, getting opportunities around the first team and winning things because, ultimately, if you’re going to play for a long time at this club, you have to win. To get those habits and feelings into players in as many opportunities as we can, that’s a really important ingredient for players to have at a senior level.”

Adam Lawrence, who has led the Under-18s group specifically, reviewed the achievement in the glow of victory at Leigh Sports Village last Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of celebrating in the changing room, a lot of noise,” he said.

“We get to see genuine joy. It’s special. And I thought one of the really nice things was seeing the injured players who have contributed throughout the season even if they couldn’t be on the pitch tonight, celebrating with the others. There’s a spirit and togetherness about this group that’s been there from the start of the season. You get groups that have a certain dynamic between them and the desire to get better every day and push each other has been really good.”


The U18s host Everton on Saturday morning in their final game of the regular season. The 11:00 BST kick-off will be broadcast live on MUTV. The result of this game will have no bearing on the final league standings, with United already crowned winners. We will face the champions of the southern division in a national final with fixture details to be announced on and the United app as soon as possible.