Academy Weekly: Lessons learned by young squads

Monday 25 October 2021 09:00

Persistence paid off for Manchester United Under-18s as Travis Binnion's side recovered from a late setback to beat Wolves this weekend. The Reds had taken a two-goal half-time lead, only to be pegged back late in the second half. Unshaken, goals in the 89th and 95th minutes from Charlie McNeill and Maxi Oyedele secured the win.

It's a second victory in the U18 Premier League Cup for United, having put eight past Birmingham City in September. Our final fixture in the group stages is against a third Midlands side, West Bromwich Albion.

Meanwhile, the Under-23s suffered a comprehensive defeat away to West Ham, a result which manager Neil Wood explains is the consequence of a deliberate strategy to develop players.

"It's a disappointing result," Wood admitted, "for staff and players, but there's learning and some objectives that came out of it.

"We had a small squad coming into the game. We knew West Ham were a good team, a very physical and athletic team and we struggled with that. We had some real problems.

"We conceded some soft goals; two penalties, one from a corner, a deflected free-kick and a mistake where Marc slipped. It was a test of the character. That was what we were looking at, how individuals respond and it's a test to see if they can come out the other side. That gives us real insight.

"We've always pushed players up. We've really stretched them over the last two seasons. It's really hard for them to compete, to physically stay in the game because at this point in their development, they're not quite at that stage. But we see the talent in their footballing skills and that's why we push them up. We know some days we're going to get a bad result. We know some days it's going to be hard to compete against big, strong, athletic teams. We know some individuals will struggle, but it's not going to stop us stretching players, putting young teams out and continuing along this path.

18-year-old goalkeeper Radek Vitek did well on his first Under-23s start.

"Along the way we'll have really good performances and results, and other days like today where we get punished for every little mistake and we can't quite compete with that physicality. We have to take the rough with the smooth."

Several other pieces of Academy news came out this week, with one graduate nominated for a prestigious award and some promising feedback on another's training with the first team.


Lindelof lends support to Elanga

Victor Lindelof has offered his support to Anthony Elanga after the young Manchester United winger suffered alleged racist abuse by an opposition player while in action for Sweden Under-21s. The incident occurred in the recent October international break, the Swedish Football Association have said.

Lindelof, who is captain of the Sweden national team, told United Review this week that he has sought Anthony out since.

"I spoke to him and I wanted to see how he was doing, if he was okay," Lindelof said.

"I asked if I could do anything for him to help him out. I think it's very important, not just because he's from Sweden and he's my friend. I think it's very important to do that for everyone, and if someone else were to experience that I would ask them the same thing, to see if I could do anything. It's very important that you stick together and help each other out."

Elanga made his senior debut for United at the end of last season, scoring in his second appearance, heading home against Wolves in the final league fixture of the campaign. He has since trained regularly with the first team and shown his talent in the chances he has been given.

Matic on Academy talents

Nemanja Matic also commented on Elanga this week.

"Anthony is one of the young players who respects the players that are older than him and the players that have more experience," Nemanja revealed.

“So I am very happy with the way he improves and the way he is training and playing in games. So I think he is a very important player for us, in the future, as I see him in the first XI in the next upcoming seasons.”

Matic, as a senior figure within the squad, is always keen to assist his younger colleagues as they try to make their way in the game.

“Of course, I am always there to help," he explained. "It’s always good to see players from the Academy when they join us for a training session.

“I think I can see some of them have great potential and are the future of the club. I don’t know what is the secret of the United Academy but, every year, they bring a couple of top players to the first team. I have to speak with the coaches and the staff within the Academy!”

Mason on shortlist for Kopa Trophy

Academy graduate Mason Greenwood is on the 10-player shortlist for the Kopa Trophy. Organised by the reputable France Football, who also oversee the Ballon d'Or, the Kopa Trophy is presented annually to the world's best player under the age of 21. Other notable nominees for this year's award, handed out on 29 November, include Pedri (Barcelona), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) and Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund).

You’ll love these 20 Greenwood strikes! Video

You’ll love these 20 Greenwood strikes!

We’ve dipped into the MUTV archive to bring you 20 ‘unseen’ Greenwood goals, from his Academy days…

Under-23s suffer defeat to West Ham

At the start of this season, Nick Cox explained to club media the importance of understanding the challenge at hand at the Academy this season. "If the sole purpose is results, we're not going to do our jobs properly," he said. "It would have been dead easy to hold boys back and win games but it wouldn’t be doing them any favours as they wouldn’t be developing. We are going to have a young Under-23s and a young youth team and it’s the right thing to do. Nobody enjoys losing but it happens and it’s okay. We don’t shy away from defeat and we are going to have really young teams. We have to hold our nerve a little bit because it is absolutely the right thing to do.”

The Under-23s were on the end of a comprehensive defeat on Saturday, conceding six away to West Ham United. With an average age of below 18, it certainly was a young side for the age level and there were positive moments in the game with a number of chances created.

United XI: Vitek; Jurado, Mengi (c), Hardley, Fernandez; Svidersky, Wellens; Forson (Norkett 74), Mather (Hoogewerf 63), Elanga; Hugill.

Unused sub: Polakowski.

Loan watch

Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong faced off against each other in the Championship this weekend, the latter providing an assist for Birmingham City as they beat Swansea City 2-1 on Saturday.

Ethan Galbraith also got an assist in an impressive performance for Doncaster Rovers in their 3-2 win against Cheltenham. Elsewhere in the Football League, Di'Shon Bernard played the full match for Hull as they were beaten 1-0 by Luton Town and James Garner was a 51st-minute substitute for Nottingham Forest as their six-game unbeaten run came to an end against promotion favourites Fulham.

In Scotland, midfielder Dylan Levitt played the full 90 minutes in St. Johnstone's 2-1 win against Motherwell.

Under-18s win in U18 Premier League Cup

The Under-18s's U18 Premier League Cup fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers was last week postponed due to a traffic incident which prevented Wolves from getting to the Carrington Training Complex on time. Replayed on Saturday, United triumphed late on in an exciting match-up.

Rhys Bennett, who captained the side, put United ahead but Isak Hansen curled home to double the Reds' lead. Eric Hanbury saved Ethan McLeod's penalty shortly after half-time, only for the Wolves forward to finish off the rebound.

Tyler Roberts equalised for the visitors late on, but United persisted and Charlie McNeill found a winner after 89 minutes. Maxi Oyedele showed the right attitude by playing right until the end and finding himself a goal which took the game away from Wolves, pressurising the 'keeper, winning the ball and converting into an empty net.

U18s highlights: United 4 Wolves 2 Video

U18s highlights: United 4 Wolves 2

Watch the highlights of the 4-2 cup victory against Wolves for the Under-18s...

United XI: Hanbury; Bennett (c), Kambwala, Aljofree, Murray; Gore (Giggs 90+5), Oyedele; Ennis, Hansen-Aaroen, Garnacho, McNeill.

Unused subs: Fitzgerald, Higgins, Oriola. 


Saturday league action

United's Under-23s travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday lunchtime. Kick-off in that Premier League 2 fixture is at midday, the same time at which the Under-18s will begin their U18 Premier League match away at Derby County.

MUTV will show the Under-18s fixture live, with coverage beginning at 11:45 BST. The Under-23s fixture cannot be shown live due to Premier League broadcasting restrictions which dictate that no Premier League 2 match can be shown while a Premier League game is being played. Highlights will be available on and our Official App later in the day.

Next Under-23s game: Tottenham Hotspur v UNITED - Lamex Stadium - Saturday 30 October - 12:00 BST

Next Under-18s game: Derby County v UNITED - Derby County Football Academy - Saturday 30 October - 12:00 BST