Academy Weekly: Differing marks of progression
With exam results, prestigious awards, exciting new challenges and match action, last week brilliantly summarised the differing marks of progression for the talented footballers at the Manchester United Academy.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
United's Under-19s will take on Bayern Munich, Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen in the UEFA Youth League, returning to Europe's elite youth club tournament after a one-year absence. The tournament mirrors the Champions League, and these junior fixtures take place on the afternoon of senior matchdays.
“The UEFA Youth League games, alongside those in the EFL Trophy, are the best games for us," said Nick Cox, Director of Academy.
"They’re tough and we find them hard, but they’re amazing for development.
"The opportunity to go to play top European opposition has always been important for us. That's why we try to make sure it happens across the age-groups. It's no good just being the best player in the northwest of England because you become complacent. You've got to get out of the bubble and see the best players in the south of England, Europe or even South America.
"So the opportunity to go to play in the UEFA Youth League is great for us, getting out of the bubble and pitching ourselves up against top opposition, going up against a team that plays a slightly different style of football to what we're used to and different culturally. It's a great learning opportunity for us."
STANDING OUT OFF THE PITCH
"As an education team, we are delighted with the achievements of our players over the last year. A significant percentage of the final outcomes were outstanding," the Academy's Education Manager Ian Smithson said.
Like many young people nationwide, our Academy boys recently received results for GCSEs, A-Levels, Btec Diplomas and more, with 80 per cent of our young Reds meeting or exceeding their target grade.
Eight players achieved the Btec Extended Diploma in Marketing (equivalent to 3 ‘A’ levels), with three Reds achieving a full distinction, while two others gained a Btec Extended Diploma in Sport.
In addition to this, ten of our second-year scholars successfully completed the Sporting Excellence Professional (SEP), eight at Distinction level, while three of their peers completed the UEFA ‘C’ Coaching certificate.
In GCSEs, nine of our scholars achieved at least one grade seven, six students accumulated a total of 18 grade eights and two Academy players were awarded with grand nines each, the highest a student can achieve.
"The results are a testament to the way that the players have dedicated themselves to their work both on and off the pitch and the excellent support that they have received from our staff,” Smithson said.
ACADEMY GRADUATE ACHIEVEMENTS
Mengi, Henderson, Jurado and Pye move on
Defender Teden Mengi, 21, ended a 14-year association with United last week as he joined Premier League club Luton Town on a permanent deal. Mengi rose through the Academy system, representing United in every age group, including the senior team, for whom he made his debut against LASK Linz in 2020.
"It has been an incredible journey," said Mengi. "Manchester United is a family and I have been lucky enough to be supported by some of the best team-mates and staff possible over the years. It is hard to put into words just how grateful I am to each and every one of them."
Dean Henderson could also come up against United this season after signing for Crystal Palace after a dozen-year association with our club, while Marc Jurado returns to his homeland by penning a permanent deal with Espanyol. The young Spanish full-back joined United from FC Barcelona in 2020 and developed fantastically in Manchester. Another full-back, Englishman Logan Pye (19), also moves on to a new challenge, at Burnley.
Earlier in the summer, we also bid a fond farewell to Ethan Laird (Birmingham City), Ethan Galbraith (Leyton Orient), Di'Shon Bernard (Sheffield Wednesday), Nathan Bishop (Sunderland), Manni Norkett (Nottingham Forest), Matej Kovar (Bayer Leverkusen), Ondrej Mastny (FC Vysocina Jihlava), Charlie Savage (Reading), Zidane Iqbal and Bjorn Hardley (FC Utrecht) and Noam Emeran (Groningen). All have fantastic opportunities to make their mark on the game with their new clubs and we wish them the very best in their futures, which we will follow with keen interest.
Academy graduate Marcus Rashford was named as the PFA Fans' Player of the Year for 2022/23 after a netting a career-high 30 goals in all competitions. Rashford becomes only the third Red to claim this particular accolade since its 2001 inception. He follows in the footsteps of his childhood inspirations, Wayne Rooney (2006, 2010) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007, 2008).
Premier League-winning graduate re-signs
Capped 102 times by Northern Ireland, Academy graduate Jonny Evans has returned to United after an eight-year absence. Evans, who has penned a deal until June 2024, won three Premier League titles in his first spell at United, whom he joined aged 15.
"This club and the fans have shaped me as a player and as a person since I was 15 years old, and I am delighted to be back where it all began as part of this talented squad," he said.
Jonny Evans | The re-signing interview
Q&A | As a Premier League winner, Academy graduate and lifelong Red, Jonny Evans can help our team on and off the pitch…
U21s draw at Sunderland
Doubles from Joe Hugill and Shola Shoretire had given United a four-goal half-time lead which Omari Forson extended shortly after the break but a resurgent Sunderland pulled off a remarkable comeback in the 98th minute with Jewison Bennette's equalising goal. Watch the ten-goal thriller.
U18s' third successive four-goal haul
A Gabriele Biancheri hat-trick helped United to a 4-1 victory in the U18 Premier League Cup against Reading on Saturday afternoon. Ethan Wheatley scored the other goal for the Reds. Watch highlights.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Settling in on loan
Several United youngsters completed loan moves in the final days of the transfer window and will be settling into their new clubs over the next week. Striker Charlie McNeill joined Stevenage of League One after a spell at League Two Newport County last season and left-back Alvaro Fernandez will play in La Liga for Granada. The Spaniard was named Preston North End's Young Player of the Year while on loan in the Championship last season.
Many young Reds will be in international action, and we'll update you on their progress next week. The international break means there are no fixtures for either the U18s or U21s this weekend.