Academy Weekly: Varied graduate experiences

Tuesday 13 February 2024 16:48

As Scott McTominay scored a seventh Premier League goal this season to help Manchester United to victory at Aston Villa, other graduates were scoring in Nottingham and Edinburgh, starting to train in South Korea or hanging up their boots after doing themselves proud in a varied career.

Here's everything you need to know about all that and the last seven days at the Academy...


Our much-discussed U18 Premier League winning run concluded with Saturday morning's hard-fought 2-2 draw at Derby County.

The incredible streak, which had reached 14 games before the trip to the Rams, was made more remarkable by the involvement of a full 32 players.

Seven changes were made for this game and the team continued to show admirable work ethic and desire as they twice came from behind to earn a valuable point and maintain their unbeaten record.

Most importantly, this fixture provided a series of new challenges for our young players to contend with and overcome. That included some players who were also involved in our Under-16s’ fixture on the same morning.

“Ultimately we want our players to be involved in a winning first team,” lead coach Adam Lawrence explained to United Review last month.

“To play for a top club like United, they need to win football matches. Everybody wants to win games and titles at every level, but that should never be done at the expense of the individual development of each player. That’s our ultimate aim.

U18s highlights: Derby v United Video

U18s highlights: Derby v United

Watch the goals and key action from the Reds' Under-18 Premier League North clash with Derby...

“So our focus is on developing individuals. When you do that, the team gets better. We’ve made on average five or six changes to the line-up per game this season. Credit to the players first and foremost for buying into the whole programme. What we’re trying to do with them at this level is not to have them thinking they’re just training for the game on the Saturday. Their training plans are bigger than that and the games are just one part of it. I’ve been very impressed with the players in terms of their approach to that.”

Jack Kingdon scored a fine volley to equalise in the first half before substitute Jim Thwaites’s excellent long-range strike in the 92nd minute.

Our Under-21s’ fixture away at Southampton, scheduled for Friday evening, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. A rearranged date will be announced in due course.


Scott McTominay scored the winning goal for our men’s first team at Villa Park on Sunday evening in a fixture featuring a further four Academy graduates (Jonny Evans, Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo and Marcus Rashford).

McTominay has now scored seven times in this season’s Premier League.

“You have to credit a player like Scott,” said manager Erik ten Hag.

“There are not many players who can come from the bench and bring this energy and contribute to the team.

McTominay's goalscoring exploits Video

McTominay's goalscoring exploits

Watch Scott McTominay's eight goals so far in 2023/24 - he loves a late one!

“He is an example for many players these days. There are not many players any more who are ready for every minute they can be on the pitch. Today we have seen another example. He is always ready to come on and make a difference.”

Up in Scotland, on-loan defender Will Fish assisted graduate Dylan Levitt as Hibernian held Celtic until the 92nd minute, when Adam Idah scored a winning penalty for the league-leading visitors.

Further afield, Jesse Lingard has signed for FC Seoul in South Korea. The experiences he'll gain playing in a different country with a markedly different culture should be fantastic. Good luck, Jesse!


James Weir, who became the 218th Academy graduate to represent United’s first team when he made a February 2016 debut against Arsenal in victory at Old Trafford, has announced his retirement aged 28.

“After a lot of thought and consideration I’ve decided to hang up my boots professionally,” he shared on Instagram.

“A bitter sweet moment, but I can look back on my career with happy memories.

James Weir chats to fellow graduate Paddy McNair after making his United debut in February 2016.

“Despite my injuries I’ve met some incredible people, forged life-long relationships and travelled the world doing what I love.

“Huge thank you to family, friends, coaches, teammates and fans who’ve all helped me on my journey.

“Through the highs, lows and everything in between, I’ve lived my dream. I’m excited in the pursuit of living my next dream away from the beautiful game.”

Congratulations on your achievements, James, and know that the Academy will be here to offer its assistance in the next step of your journey.


French centre-back Willy Kambwala sat down for his first major interview as a United player last week. His maturity and passion came across clearly as he explained how he dreamt of following in the footsteps of Patrice Evra by playing for United.

“People here were just brilliant,” he said, of his first few months at the club after signing aged 16.

“I was a young player so I really needed help to understand things. Every day I was meeting someone who was just so welcoming with me and I was just like, ‘okay, I’m at home’. It felt like ‘okay, everyone here loves me, everyone here wants the best for me’. Everyone, the staff, the coaches, even the people in the canteen.”

You can watch the full inspirational interview here.

Willy Kambwala | Fight For Your Dream Video

Willy Kambwala | Fight For Your Dream

Fight For Your Dream | You will love Willy Kambwala’s first big interview, charting his rise from Les Ulis in France…


A range of activities at the Academy over the last few days have focused on Children's Mental Health Week, with the theme 'My Voice Matters'.

Education on mental health and well-being forms a core part of 'A United Education' but specific pegs in the calendar like this one bring that emphasis more firmly into view. The theme sought to encourage young people to feel confident that they can express themselves and support them in having their say. This fits in with the recent launch of the 'Devils' Advocate' programme at the Academy, where players from each age group meet several times a season to offer coaches and staff feedback.


Our Under-21s host Manchester City on Monday 19 February in a 19:00 GMT kick-off at Leigh Sports Village. Fans are encouraged to attend and lend the team their support in the Premier League 2 fixture, which cannot be broadcast live on MUTV due to league restrictions.

The Under-18s, meanwhile, travel to Nottingham Forest for a Saturday 12:30 GMT kick-off. This match will be shown live on MUTV, with coverage starting from the Nigel Doughty Academy 15 minutes before the action begins.