Academy Weekly: U21s flourish at Old Trafford

Tuesday 30 January 2024 12:30

Kobbie Mainoo’s first senior goal for Manchester United headlined a strong weekend for the Academy with a rich variety of experiences in all age groups.

The 18-year-old Stockport-born midfielder scored the second of four goals for the men's first team in our Emirates FA Cup victory at Newport County on Sunday afternoon. He wheeled away in celebration to be joined by fellow Academy graduate Alejandro Garnacho.

Less than two years ago, the same pair were celebrating Garnacho’s match-winning goals in the FA Youth Cup final, before lifting the trophy together alongside Omari Forson - who made his second appearance against Newport as a substitute - in front of a 67,000-strong Old Trafford crowd. Their development in the senior side this season has been one of the key positives of the campaign for everyone at the club.

The day before, the next generation were getting their own experience of playing at the Theatre of Dreams, as you can see and read below. Plus, there are several key loan updates and details on a big week coming up for our Under-18s…


Our Under-21s shone on their first Old Trafford appearance of the season, with Salford-born winger Sam Mather, 19, scoring all four goals in the victory over Norwich City.

You can watch highlights of Saturday’s game below.

U21s highlights: United v Norwich Video

U21s highlights: United v Norwich

Watch all the key moments from our Under-21s' Premier League 2 clash with Norwich at Old Trafford...

It wasn’t only our players who relished the Old Trafford experience, but those of Norwich, too, including the substitute goalkeeper Ellis Craven, a Salford-born United fan who got to play at his boyhood team’s stadium.

“Just a kid from Salford living every young Reds dream,” he said on X post-match. “[That’s] a moment me and my family will never forget.”

Norwich's second goalscorer shared a similar sentiment. "You dream to play in stadiums like this as a little kid," said midfielder Adian Manning.

That’s the power of football and why the Academy are so proud to be able to play a selection of Under-21 and Under-18 games, including all home FA Youth Cup fixtures, at Old Trafford.

As it was the Under-21s' closest fixture to the 66th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, our players wore black armbands and the managers laid wreaths of remembrance.


First-half goals from Gabriele Biancheri, Bendito Mantato (his first at this level), Zach Baumann and Ethan Williams extended our Under-18s' winning run in the league to the maximum 13 games so far as Leeds United were defeated 4-0 at Carrington on Saturday. Highlights of the win are available to watch below.

The young Reds now have an exciting two-game week, beginning with the Under-18 Premier League game against Liverpool tonight (Tuesday 19:00 GMT).

Adam Lawrence's side will then face Arsenal in the Under-18 Premier League Cup on Saturday morning (11:00 GMT). Should the scoreline be level at full-time, two halves of 15 minutes of extra time will be played. If the game ends in a draw after extra-time, the result of the match will be determined by a penalty shootout.

Both games - tonight and Saturday - are being played at Carrington and supporters can watch both of them live on MUTV, and the United App where coverage begins 15 minutes before kick-off on each occasion.

U18s highlights: United v Leeds Video

U18s highlights: United v Leeds

Watch the key moments and hear Adam Lawrence's thoughts after the young Reds faced Leeds at Carrington...


Last week’s ‘A United Celebration’ event received significant coverage in the sporting media, with two pieces on the Manchester Evening News and Training Ground Guru websites summing up the positivity on show inside Old Trafford particularly well.


Two more young players earned loan moves over the last seven days, with Radek Vitek joining Accrington Stanley and Dan Gore moving to Port Vale – where he links up with Academy graduates James Wilson and Tom Sang.

This takes the total of temporary departures for our Academy players up to six in this January transfer window, following the earlier exits for Rhys Bennett (Stockport County), Alvaro Fernandez (Benfica), Joe Hugill (Burton Albion) and Maxi Oyedele (Forest Green Rovers).

Vitek made his Accrington Stanley debut almost immediately, keeping a clean sheet for the League Two club as they won 1-0 away to Forest Green Rovers, for whom Oyedele was a 69th-minute substitute.

“That is the main thing, I want to start and play regularly,” Vitek said. “Not to be on the bench. I want to get some important matches under my belt.”

The best Academy moments of 2023 Video

The best Academy moments of 2023

Watch the best moments for our Academy graduates in 2023, including debuts, wondergoals and more…

The Czech Republic youth international also reflected on what has been a whirlwind few years since he moved from Sigma Olomouc in 2020.

“Of course, it was a big move for me and it was so good for my family and everyone here. A lot has already happened. It has been amazing since the first day I walked into the training ground.

“Winning the Youth Cup was an amazing memory and being on the bench too. Lots of amazing memories in my life.”

'I've dreamed of this for a long time' Video

'I've dreamed of this for a long time'

Kobbie Mainoo was thrilled to get his first senior goal for United...

Gore also started at the weekend, playing 54 minutes of 20th-placed Port Vale’s 1-0 home defeat against League One leaders Portsmouth. In the same division, Joe Hugill played a half of Burton Albion’s 0-0 draw at Cambridge United.

In Portugal, Alvaro Fernandez made his Benfica debut as a late sub in their League Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat to Estoril.

In Scotland, Will Fish continues to enjoy a highly impressive season at the heart of Hibernian's defence. The 20-year-old centre-back has played all but four minutes of the Scottish Premiership season thus far and helped sixth-placed Hibs to a 2-2 draw at fourth-placed Kilmarnock at the weekend after a 3-0 home defeat to league leaders Rangers in midweek.