Neil Ryan speaks to his Under-18s.

United Under-18s set for exciting period

Manchester United’s youngsters are preparing for a spell packed with games against top opponents, starting with Saturday’s clash against Manchester City (11:00 GMT kick-off).

The mini-derby is live on MUTV from the Aon Training Complex and it kickstarts a busy period for the in-form Reds ahead of Christmas. December begins with a visit to Under-18 Premier League table-toppers Everton and there are two home fixtures with Chelsea – in the Premier League Cup and FA Youth Cup.


When you add the conclusion of UEFA Youth League Group H, with ties against Young Boys and Valencia at Under-19 level into the mix, it is clearly a key spell for the club’s Academy.

“There are four weeks coming up of big games and, as we like to say it’s the old phrase of taking it game by game really,” Under-18s head coach Neil Ryan told ManUtd.com. “The first one is Manchester City and the lads are really looking forward to it. These are an exciting few matches coming up before the Christmas period.

”There are no easy games in the next month. I know that but it’s exactly what you want. You really want that high level of opposition week in and week out. We have Everton sandwiched between the two Chelsea games and they’re doing well. It’s always a tough game for us.

”The European fixture is in between and we’ll have to go again at the weekend. The strength of the squad is going to be key now.”

The international break is now over with the focus fully on the run of high-quality matches for a side that has won seven successive games at Under-18 level.

”It’s actually a really good time sometimes,” Ryan explained. “During the international break, some boys go away and play their games and get the opportunity and experience, which is really good for them. But with the lads here, there is the opportunity for the older second-year boys in the youth team to be up with the Under-23s more often in training. The knock-on effect is we can have more of a look at the first-year boys, the 17-year-olds, and some schoolboys as well can step up to the other level.

So it’s really good focus for me, [Under-18s assistant coach] Colin Little and Charlie Owen [YDP athletic development coach], the coaching staff, to work with those first-years and give them that care and attention they need.”
Marcus Rashford in action against Chelsea's youth team.
Marcus Rashford played the last time United met Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup.

The FA Youth Cup third-round encounter, which is also live on MUTV, is bound to be a special occasion against a club in Chelsea that has lifted the trophy in six of the previous seven seasons. The date has been fixed for Monday 17 December (19:00 GMT kick-off), with Leigh Sports Village hosting the tie of the round.

“Leigh is a second home for us,” he said. “The Under-23s play a lot of fixtures there and we’ve staged a lot of youth games there as well in the past. There is that opportunity to play under floodlights, in a stadium, and it’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to it as it should be a really good evening.

“Everyone starts to get more focused on the Youth Cup but we have to make sure we’re not just thinking about that game, in four weeks’ time, we’ll be taking it week by week and respecting each opponent as they come.”

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