Academy Weekly: Overseas experiences
Manchester United’s Under-23s enjoyed “a really good and insightful” trip to Monaco last week.
The young Reds trained at excellent facilities and played a behind-closed-doors game against high-quality opposition.
It was a week for overseas experiences, with the Under-17s and Under-15s in action in Dallas, Texas and another young side competing in Spain. Meanwhile, three Under-18s goalkeepers have completed landmark achievements.
More detail on all of the above comes below, as well as our regular loan watch and match details, but first, Steve Higham, Academy Operations Manager, explained to us how the Monaco trip was planned.
“What we try to do is approach other clubs that have a tradition of bringing players through, that are developers of young footballers," Higham explained.
"Once we have agreed the match details, logistical considerations are factored in so that we can arrange the best, and most beneficial, experience for the team. But principally what we try to do is pick clubs who share our values of promoting players from within.
“We then make contact and liaise with those clubs in advance. A good, in-depth conversation beforehand with our opposition, the personnel at those clubs, makes sure we set the right environment for those matches.
“We both have a shared target for those matches, which is to create a challenging and competitive extension of the games programme for those lads: something new, different in new environments or territories. It’s giving experiences to the lads, but high-level games as well, which we need to supplement our programme.
“Trips like this give us the opportunity to come up against opposition that is different to what we would normally face via the domestic programme. But actually travelling out and what that brings, spending some time in the hotel, training the day before the game, it all adds to the experience for the lads, to get used to those kind of environments. It was a really good and successful couple of days.
“It’s getting used to that demand on their time as young footballers, that as part of a programme they can be playing in this country one week, going abroad the next, playing different types and styles of opposition. It’s all going to benefit them in the long-run.
“I think this is something that we will be striving to deliver more of in the future. We started to do this before the pandemic hit. We played against AC Milan, Hertha Berlin, and PSV. And we were building up an extension of the games programme that was quite exciting. We had intended to play Real Madrid at one point during that season but the pandemic hit. Now it’s time for us to get those plans back into operation.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Other international experiences
United's U15s and U17s have been competing at the Adidas Generation Cup in Dallas, Texas recently. The U17s team came up against a variety of opposition, namely Minnesota United, Chicago Fire, Orlando City, LA Galaxy and River Plate.
On Spain’s Costa Brava, a much younger Academy side has enjoyed a similarly positive experience at the prestigious Mediterranean International Cup, which the club has participated in for many years. The competition has a mixture of teams, from United, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Marseille to smaller, local academies.
Goalkeepers achieve Bradford success
Two U18s goalkeepers celebrated success with Bradford City last week. Tom Wooster and Eric Hanbury have both spent the season training at United, but earning game time at the Bantams. The pair have, of course, played for United as well during the season. The aim of the work experience loans was to help ensure all of the club’s young goalkeepers get significant game time as they transition into the professional phase of their careers.
Bradford’s U19s side in which the pair featured have finished the season as league winners. Tom and Eric made an impression not just as footballers, but as people, too. Their Bradford coaches described them as “a pleasure to work with” and “a credit to themselves and Manchester United.”
'Friends of the Academy' launched
The Manchester United Academy have launched a new ‘Friends of the Academy’ initiative designed to share its resources and knowledge with coaches, schools, junior clubs and young players across the North West.
The opportunity provides a unique chance for local clubs and schools to directly engage with Manchester United. Find out more here.
Scholarship for Polakowski
Dan Polakowski has received an offer of a full scholarship at Manhattan College in the USA. The young United goalkeeper still has some paperwork to complete, but it is a fantastic achievement and one to be celebrated by all at the Academy.
"We are all really proud of Dan's achievements on and off the pitch," Nick Cox, Head of Academy said.
"Throughout the Academy we strive to improve the lives of each and every one of the boys and encourage them to reach their full potential.
"For some, their journey with us will lead them to a first team debut at Manchester United. For others it may look different, whether that is playing professional or part-time football elsewhere, the start of a successful career or further education.
"As an Academy, we put significant focus on holistic development to ensure that the boys have a fantastic experience and a wide range of skillsets. Everyone is delighted for Dan and look forward to following the next step of his journey over in America."
Under-18s defeat Wolves
Goals from Ethan Ennis and Charlie McNeill, either side of half-time, saw United triumph 2-0 over Wolves at Carrington last Tuesday evening. You can watch the highlights below.
Matej Kovar put in a sterling performance in his third appearance for Burton Albion, helping the Brewers to a 0-0 away draw at Accrington Stanley. The Czech Republic youth international made five big saves. On the opposition was former-Red Ethan Hamilton, who was responsible for six shots at the Albion goal. Kovar has now kept three consecutive clean sheets, and earned a place in the EFL Team of the Week.
Ethan Laird made his first start for AFC Bournemouth, the club he joined in January after a successful few months at Swansea City, also in the Championship. Injury has kept Ethan out of action for some time, and he’s worked hard to earn a chance in the promotion-chasing Cherries side. Although Scott Parker’s side drew 0-0, Laird received praise for his attacking output.
Reece Devine was in action for Walsall, James Garner for Nottingham Forest, Ethan Galbraith for Doncaster Rovers and many other loanees. You can read a full report on their progress in our weekly round-up.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Double gameweek for U18s
Travis Binnion’s team hosted Burnley at the J. Davidson Stadium in Altrincham on Tuesday 19 April, losing 1-0. They now return to Carrington for a Saturday lunchtime match against Newcastle United. That game kicks off at 12:30 BST.
The game won't be shown live on MUTV as it clashes with the first-team fixture against Arsenal. Updates will be provided on ManUtd.com and the United app, and highlights will be available as soon as possible in the same places.
Final Old Trafford fixture for U23s
After wins over Everton (3-0) and Chelsea (1-0) at the Theatre of Dreams, Neil Wood’s U23s are back at Old Trafford. The Reds host Arsenal in Premier League. The Gunners are just ahead of United in the table and will pose a stern challenge. That game is on Friday 22 April, and kicks off at 19:00 BST.