Academy Weekly: Bolton test awaits United Under-21s
After a busy week in Europe, Manchester United’s Academy returned to the domestic stage at the weekend with Under-18s and Under-21s league fixtures and now prepare for a tough challenge in the EFL Trophy group stages.
The young Reds triumphed over Stockport County on penalties in our opening game in the competition last month, having drawn 1-1 in normal time after a late equaliser from the hosting Hatters. Lead coach Travis Binnion was impressed at his side’s ability to maintain composure and produce a faultless shoot-out performance in the immediate aftermath of conceding.
Next up tonight, it’s a trip back to Bolton Wanderers, who knocked United out in the last 16, en route to winning the EFL Trophy last term.
While much of the squad will have changed from that 2022/23 contest at the Toughsheet Community Stadium, for those players who remain, this fixture will offer an excellent opportunity to assess their own development in the last nine months.
Binnion said at the time of our exit to Bolton: “Competitions like this are the best learning experiences for our players.”
He continued: “The lads have got to look at themselves and think: where can I do better? Could I get into their team? What would I need to do to get into their team?
“I always think that’s a good start: looking at themselves and making sure that they improve so that if we played Bolton again next week, in two weeks or in a year’s time, we would fare a lot better and our players would be much further on in their journeys.”
Tonight's match comes in a busy run of games for Binnion's group, who played Rangers B in a friendly, then Bayern Munich (Under-19s) and Arsenal, and now take on Bolton's senior side followed by Blackburn Rovers in the league and Galatasaray in the UEFA Youth League.
“We’ve got six games in 19 days,” said the coach.
“It’s a fantastic learning curve for the boys and the games offer a really different challenge, each one. We’re excited about this Bolton game. It’ll be the toughest game of those six, no doubt. Bolton are a great, well-coached side who’ll be at the top of League One. They’ll ask a lot of questions of us.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Academy attends Munich memorial
While in Munich last week for the UEFA Youth League game against Bayern, an Academy delegation visited Manchesterplatz to pay respects to those who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich Air Disaster. Nick Cox and Travis Binnion led the group.
Learning about 1958, and the journey towards European Cup glory a decade later, is a core part of the education Academy players, and staff, receive at United.
It is made abundantly clear to those involved with the Academy that they are following in the footsteps of those who came before and there is a responsibility to uphold their spirit, values and playing style. There is also an awareness that it is the Academy that was the bedrock of the club in the aftermath of the crash.
UEFA Youth League begins
United were defeated 2-0 by Bayern Munich in our UEFA Youth League opener in Bavaria on Wednesday afternoon.
The goals came from Robert Ramsak and Michael Scott, one in each half. You can watch the match highlights below.
Under-18s and Under-21s in league action
United’s Under-18s secured a thrilling 3-2 victory over Sunderland away from home on Saturday, with captain Finley McAllister firing home a last-minute winner.
“I thought in general, if you were someone watching it and you weren’t connected to either team, it was a good advert for Under-18s football," lead coach Adam Lawrence reviewed.
"I thought we had really good control in the first half in terms of how we used the ball and how we built the play from the back and into the final third of the pitch. Credit to the boys at the end for keeping going. There were quite a few of the lads in the Munich squad in midweek getting amazing experiences, so there’s been quite a lot of travel, and it’s pleasing from that side as well.”
The Under-21s, meanwhile, were defeated at home by Arsenal. Binnion’s side trailed 4-1 at half-time and, despite Omari Forson scoring after the break for a resurgent United, the Reds couldn’t get themselves level at Carrington.
“The big learning curve for our lads today is that Arsenal got into a rhythm in our half too easily,” Binnion reflected.
“I wanted the players to express themselves and in the first half too many players didn’t do that. It’s a great learning curve today and overall I’m really, really proud of them for the 90 minutes but really disappointed with them for that 30-minute spell where the game went away from us.”
Everyone was delighted to see Rhys Bennett and Sam Murray both return from long lay-offs with injury. You can watch match highlights here.
Academy graduate achievements
The Academy was proud to see our graduate Jonny Evans make his 200th senior appearance for United in Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Burnley. The Northern Irishman had a first-half header disallowed before providing a lovely assist for Bruno Fernandes’ winning goal.
“I loved every minute of it,” he reflected to TNT Sports post-match. “Sometimes you get a feeling and I couldn't wait – you get pure excitement and coming up on the bus I was just buzzing.
“I never thought I'd ever play 200 games but it was an absolute honour, and one of the best nights of my life just to come back and play for this club again.
“To be back here and in front of these fans was a dream come true and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
At the other end of the development path, Hannibal made his second senior start for United and was crucial in securing victory at Turf Moor. Well done, Hannibal.
Alvaro Fernandez came off the bench in a 1-0 defeat for Granada against Las Palmas. Charlie McNeill played 57 minutes for Stevenage in a 3-0 win over Cheltenham and Will Fish played another 90 minutes for Hibernian, helping the Edinburgh to keep a clean sheet in their 2-0 victory over St. Johnstone.
Our Under-21s play Bolton Wanderers tonight (Tuesday) in a 19:45 BST kick-off. This clashes with the senior team's fixture against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and United did try to find an alternative date with the EFL and Bolton to allow fans to attend both games, but couldn't come to an agreement. Highlights will be available for fans to watch on MUTV, ManUtd.com and the United App.
The Under-21s travel to Blackburn Rovers in Premier League 2 on Saturday (12:00 BST kick-off). This game will not be shown on MUTV, but fans can instead watch our Under-18s' home clash with Newcastle United, which begins half an hour later at Carrington (12:30 BST). Coverage begins 15 minutes beforehand.