Academy Weekly: Season wraps up

Friday 27 May 2022 09:00

Manchester United’s Professional Development Phase sides wrapped up their seasons last week, with presentations made to departing players, education awards handed out and a further celebration of the FA Youth Cup victory.

Several Academy players bid farewell to United, including D’Mani Mellor and goalkeeping pair Dan Polakowski and Paul Woolston. Mellor will seek new opportunities for first-team football in England, Polakowski is headed for a scholarship at Manhattan College in the United States, and Woolston has been sadly forced to retire by a hip injury.

The presentation day also provided an opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to departing coaches, Neil Wood - who has become head coach at Salford City - and Neil Ryan, who has joined the FA.

All players’ education achievements were recognised, and certificates handed out. Rhys Bennett was awarded Scholar of the Year, a Premier League trophy given to one player at every club for the overall application shown throughout their scholarship, in training, games and education.

Tyler Fredricson, who missed the FA Youth Cup final through illness but played in the four games before, got his picture taken with the trophy, alongside the rest of the squad. Alejandro Garnacho, Under-18s Player of the Year, and Alvaro Fernandez, Under-23s Player of the Year, were reunited with their awards.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the last week at the Academy…


First-team involvement

Hannibal earned his first senior start for United in the first team’s 1-0 away defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday. The Tunisia midfielder had twice previously come on as a substitute, first in last season’s final day match against Wolves and then at Liverpool this term. Hannibal has played at the senior level regularly for his country, appearing at the FIFA Arab Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations in the last year. He came close with a first-time right-footed strike in the second half, shortly before being replaced by Juan Mata in the 61st minute.

Hannibal walks out at Selhurst Park.

Later in the game, Shola Shoretire and Alejandro arnacho were brought on, earning their fifth and second appearances respectively. Charlie Savage and Alvaro Fernandez were in the matchday squad but remained unused substitutes.

Four Academy graduates made their United debuts over the course of the 2021/22 season: Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Tom Heaton and Alejandro Garnacho. Over 25% of first-team minutes played were given to Academy graduates.

Neil Wood’s departure

The majority of the aforementioned players have been aided in their development in the Academy by Neil Wood. The Stretford-born former Reserves captain has left his role as U23s lead coach here to become head coach at Salford City in League Two. It’s an exciting step in his coaching career and comes after eight years at United. His first role here was as U13s coach and he has since worked his way up the age groups. His U23s stint began in 2019 and 17 Academy players have made their first-team debuts since then.

Neil Wood at last week's presentation day, alongside several U23s players and departing assistant coach Neil Ryan.

Nick Cox, head of Academy, said: “We are delighted for Neil to be able to fulfil his ambition of coaching within a first-team environment. This is an excellent move in his career and one that we were really happy to support.

“Neil has led our U23s team fantastically over the past three years and played a key role in the progression of all our recent first-team debutants.

“Clearly, this appointment is yet another reflection of the excellent coaching abilities and coach development opportunities within the Academy. We have created an environment in which the staff can progress just as much as our players.

“The whole of the Academy thanks Neil for his service throughout his time at the club and wishes him the very best of luck at Salford City.”

Savage signs new contract

Charlie Savage has penned a new deal at United which will keep him at the club until June 2025, with an option to extend by a further year. Congratulations, Charlie! Read more here.

Loan watch

James Garner will be involved for Nottingham Forest as Steve Cooper’s side take on Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Sunday 29 May. Good luck, James!

U14s taste victory

Congratulations to our U14s team, who triumphed in the Albert Phelan Cup North final last week.

Garner celebrates during Nottingham Forest's Championship play-off semi-final.


International tournaments

Across the Academy age groups, teams will continue to play in end-of-season tournaments, with this week’s schedule including trips to France and Germany.

Academy season review

We’ll bring you a full review of the season for our Professional Development Phase (U18-U23) sides, with insight from Academy coaches.