Neil Wood instructs Manchester United players.

Young Reds kicking off season at Rotherham

Neil Wood is looking forward to beginning his first campaign as Manchester United Under-23 lead coach when the Reds kick off a new season on Tuesday night.

United begin the 2019/20 term with a trip to Yorkshire to take on Rotherham United in the EFL Trophy, newly rebranded the Leasing.com Trophy, a competition the club is competing in for the first time this year.

The Reds will also take on Doncaster Rovers and Lincoln City in the tournament, which will largely feature United players aged 21 or under.

Team news is to be confirmed closer to the 19:00 BST kick-off but the Academy graduates who have been impressing with the first team on Tour 2019 could feature, while ex-Red Matthew Olosunde looks set to be involved for the hosts.

James Garner gets on the ball in midfield.
James Garner could be in the line-up that runs out at the New York Stadium.
Our youngsters will begin the new Premier League 2 season on Friday by travelling to Kidderminster Harriers' Aggborough Stadium, where we will play West Bromwich Albion’s Under-23s.

After an encouraging pre-season, Wood believes the Reds will be raring to go this week, with both games being shown live on MUTV.

“Once we flew home [from pre-season games in Northern Ireland] we started making some preparations towards the Rotherham game and then we play Friday evening away to West Brom,
“ he explained.

“The games are going to come thick and fast but they’ve had a good pre-season, we’ve had some really tough games and we’ve had some trips abroad. We’ve played away to Swindon’s first team and then, a few days later, we went to Northern Ireland and it was all training and games. It was really good for them.”
Wood believes the pre-season campaign was rewarding for his youngsters as it exposed them to the pressures which professional players have to deal with, particularly in the games against Rangers and Ballymena United.

“It’s a valuable experience,”
he said.
“The attention and dealing with those type of things off the pitch: the expectation, people coming to watch and they expect there to be a certain level of football or a certain style of football from a young Man United team, which rightly should be expected as well.

“It was a really good exercise. It’s a great experience for them and they always get a great reception when they come to Northern Ireland and a lot of fans come out to see them.
Manchester United Under-23s celebrate scoring a goal against Ballymena United on 29 July 2019.
The Reds beat Ballymena 4-3 in Northern Ireland. Credit: Presseye.

“They like Man United and they like to see young, promising players that are coming through. Any opportunity we get to come over here we wouldn’t turn that down,” added the coach, who played in Northern Ireland’s Milk Cup as a United youngster.

Our Under-23s defeated Rangers 4-0 before an entertaining 4-3 win against Ballymena.

“They were two different experiences,” he said. “Rangers were slightly younger but I fielded a young team for Rangers with the squad, knowing we’d have a bigger challenge against Ballymena and that some of the older players would start. 

“So, they’ve got some confidence against Rangers and they controlled the game and scored some goals. Against Ballymena, we knew the challenge was going to be more difficult, and we were going to have to play quicker, and we knew we were going to have to be organised offensively and defensively. We’ve still got improvements to make in those areas.”

Watch Rotherham v United in the Leasing.com Trophy live on MUTV on Tuesday, kick-off 19:00 BST.

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