A positive season for United's Academy
Now that the curtain has come down on the 2022/23 season for Manchester United's Under-21s and Under-18s, it is time for reflection.
Competing up and down the country, in a number of iconic stadiums and in some adverse weather conditions, the young Reds will have learned a lot from this campaign.
Both on and off the pitch, those in our Professional Development Phase have grown as footballers and people, and given it is a very young group, the future is bright.
Before we start to look ahead to pre-season and the beginning of the 2023/24 campaign, let us take this moment to reflect on what was an important year of progress for our young players.
PROVIDING A CHALLENGE
At United, we are dedicated to accelerated learning for our players, creating a challenging yet supportive environment which tests them with new and, at times, difficult situations in order to promote development.
With this in mind, our Under-21s side had an average age of 19.1 years old, which was the second youngest in Premier League 2 throughout the 2022/23 season.
Under-18 players clocked up a total of 7,274 minutes on the pitch in competitive Under-21 games across the campaign, with five first-year scholars and three Under-16s making the step up to play in the higher age group.
Meanwhile, Under-15 and Under-16 players registered a tally of 7,908 minutes in competitive Under-18 games. Four Under-16 players gained a total of 1,000 competitive minutes for the Under-18s.
Some young Reds have made the step up to the first team, with midfielder Kobbie Mainoo and forward Charlie McNeill both being handed their senior debuts during the season.
Zidane Iqbal, Tyler Fredricson, Rhys Bennett, Marc Jurado and Radek Vitek are among those who were been on the bench for the first team at different stages of the 2022/23 campaign too.
Thirty-two players from the Professional Development Phase have trained with the first team over the course of the season, amassing 571 training sessions between them.
A number of players, such as Iqbal and Mainoo, have also trained with the first team for long periods, which naturally resulted in them missing some Academy games. Despite this move hampering our Academy sides for their respective fixtures, it will always take priority, due to the benefits of training with Erik ten Hag's squad.
Being a part of the elite environment was certainly apparent in the winter break during the World Cup. Academy players made up a large proportion of the squad that Ten Hag took to Spain, and Academy coach Mark Dempsey also travelled, as our young players gained invaluable experience by training with the first team and visiting another country.
It's not just within the grounds of Carrington where our young players have been learning and developing, with excellent loan experiences being provided for players who could have been key performers for our Academy sides in 2022/23.
Di'Shon Bernard, Ethan Galbraith, Will Fish, Alvaro Fernandez, Hannibal, Matej Kovar, Ethan Laird, McNeill, Charlie Savage and Shola Shoretire are just some of our players who have experienced successful loan spells this term.
Maxi Oyedele and Joe Hugill have also benefitted from our innovative loan agreement with local club Altrincham F.C. that allowed them to play in the National League and gain senior experience while continuing to train and develop within our Academy simultaneously.
The main purpose of the United Academy is to develop players to form the core of a winning first team. In order to do this, we seek to support all players within our care to maximise and reach their individual potential.
Fielding players in a variety of games in which they face increased physical and tactical challenges enables faster development, as we continue to focus on prioritising individual progress over short-term success in the results and tables of Under-18 Premier League or Premier League 2.
Each player has followed an individual development plan, with the Academy reaffirming a dedication to using this approach to harness the talents of our young players.