United Under-18s celebrate a goal against Everton in February 2018

What a brilliant season for the Academy boys

Friday 25 May 2018 07:30

Manchester United's Under-18s enjoyed a season to remember under Kieran McKenna's tutelage, thrilling supporters, including regular MUTV viewers, with a flurry of goals.

The vibrant young Reds hit six goals on four occasions but the highlights were probably a 4-1 demolition of fellow northern title hopefuls Everton and the 2-1 triumph over neighbours Manchester City that clinched the championship.

A season that began with defeat at West Brom featured improvement from the individual players, with this development the main aim of McKenna and his staff and not the match results. The teenagers visibly grew in stature and even the disappointment of an early FA Youth Cup exit, to Derby County on penalties, failed to dampen any enthusiasm or affect form.

When more senior second-years like Aidan Barlow, Angel Gomes, Lee O'Connor, Nishan Burkart and Tahith Chong were unavailable due to injury, Under-23 call-ups or international commitments, others stepped up in their place. Dylan Levitt, Ethan Galbraith and Dion McGhee were able to show their potential in midfield, Di'Shon Bernard impressed in defence while D'Mani Mellor and Largie Ramazani provided options going forward.

Kieran McKenna coached United to the Under-18 northern title
Greenwood, Gomes and goals galore Video

Greenwood, Gomes and goals galore

Mason and Angel were just two of the scoresheet regulars during an excellent attacking term for United's Under-18s...

The leading goalscorer was a schoolboy, Mason Greenwood, who ended up with 17 goals in 17 starts and was the top marksman in the northern division. James Garner looks a class act in the engine room, the full-back positions always provided attacking impetus (largely through Ethan Laird, George Tanner and Brandon Williams) and keeper Matej Kovar quickly adapted to life between the posts after arriving in January.

The youth league format has undergone countless changes over the years but this is the first time the Reds have topped a season-long division since 2009/10, when Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba were in a team that won Academy Group C.

Tahith Chong picked up the Jimmy Murphy Youth-Team Player of the Year award.

"I have to say they have been a really enjoyable squad to work with," said McKenna. "There have been probably five or six European tours this year and tournaments, right from the start of the season at the training camp in Austria.

"We've never had any trouble as they conduct themselves extremely well. They all get on really well and are a bubbly bunch off the pitch. So it's enjoyable for the staff to be around. It was nice to be at the awards dinner at Old Trafford at the back end of the season and they enjoyed it. Once that was out of the way, the glitz and the glamour, it was a case of getting the message right - feet back on the floor, down to earth and back on the training pitch, trying to get better."

The goal that won our U18s the title Video

The goal that won our U18s the title

Back in April, Ethan Galbraith's stunner sealed the title for our Under-18s...

The buzz around the squad is infectious and more development can be anticipated in 2018/19. Chelsea may have emerged victorious in the national final, emphasising their quality at this level, but it is more than reasonable to expect pathways into United's first-team for the cream of our crop to remain open.

There has been a real buzz in Under-18 training all season.

At the other end of the scale, Under-16s will be introduced to the Under-18s as first-year scholars and the production line continues. The early glimpses of Greenwood, Teden Mengi and Anthony Elanga indicate they will add much to the side. Our Academy is the best place to be for these burgeoning talents and those not tuning in to watch the youngsters are maybe missing out on a fascinating insight into the future.

Relive the Under-18s' title-winning campaign in MUTV's season review on Friday evening from 18:00 BST, when it will also be available on demand at MUTV.com.