Defender Max Dunne is aware the step up to Under-23s football will provide him with a physical test, despite being one of the tallest members of United's squad.
The young centre-back is one of the Under-18s who has moved into Ricky Sbragia’s group and came off the bench in last Friday’s pre-season friendly at Northampton Town. In an exclusive interview with ManUtd.com, the 18-year-old explained why he appreciates marking more experienced, and wilier strikers, and the problems they usually pose.
United kick off the Premier League 2 campaign with a clash at Fulham on Friday (19:00 BST kick-off), hoping to make a good start to life in the division.
”Obviously I’m in a new age group and have a new coach, so it’s exciting for all of us that have come up,” he said. ”I think the majority, if not all of us have played, and if not, all of us have definitely trained with them a lot of times. So we know the lads; it’s not like going into something completely new.
“It’s not much of a difference moving up because we know the majority of the lads, but obviously there’s a difference in playing against who were going to play and the level of training. I think we can tell already in pre-season that, physically, it’s a lot tougher, even in running power and stuff. I think we’re all just developing that side of the game because especially now we want to be heading towards first-team football in the next few years. So I think it’s good that we get it now.
”It’s almost men’s football. The Under-23s league allows you to play over-age players as well, so especially if there’s a player coming back from injury, you can come up against anyone. We’ve even had players playing for us, so you can come up against anyone, you can play with anyone. So it’s quite good because it’s a different challenge. In the Under-18s, you can play with the same team week in, week out, whereas you’ve got to adjust (in the Under-23s), you’ve got to be able to switch around teams. It’s just getting used to different things really.”
The individual battle is important for all central defenders and learning on the job is the perfect preparation for Dunne as he takes the next step in his fledgling career.
”You come up against different challenges and sometimes, if you play a young player, then they’re raw and they want to try loads of different things against you,” he explained.
“But when you play an experienced player, they often find out your weaknesses early in the game and then try and exploit them. It’s good to get a mixture of everything and I think you get more of that in the Under-23s than I’ve had previously.
”I think it’s less of a psychological battle and more knowing what you’re coming up against and then just dealing with it the best you can. Say if they’re faster. you’ve got to drop off earlier. If they’re stronger, you’ve got to not let them get hold of you and stuff like that. It’s just figuring them out early.
”I hope I’ll get lots of starts in the league and get playing regularly and then hopefully get United back up to the top division.”