Cox: Academy's connection with fans is incredible

Wednesday 23 August 2023 18:25

After Manchester United fans provided magnificent backing for our Under-21s in fixtures at Old Trafford and Edgeley Park, Nick Cox is urging supporters to continue aiding our youngsters’ development.

The Director of Academy, who is interviewed in-depth in this Saturday’s United Review, has outlined exactly how playing in front of crowds can have a significant impact.

Just shy of 1,400 United fans were at Stockport County's ground to watch our Under-21s achieve a penalty shoot-out victory over the League Two side on Tuesday night, to earn two points in the EFL Trophy group stage.

And last Friday night, the young Reds played at the Theatre of Dreams, taking on Leeds in Premier League 2.

EFL Trophy highlights: Stockport v United U21s Video

EFL Trophy highlights: Stockport v United U21s

Catch up with the action from Edgeley Park, where our Under-21s' EFL Trophy tie ended in a penalty shootout...

Cox now hopes to see fans attend Saturday’s league match against Stoke City at Leigh Sports Village (12:00 BST kick-off).

“It was a brilliant night of learning for our young players in the EFL Trophy and our fans made the experience even more special, as they always do,” he said.

“It’s the fans who create the environment which is going to pave the way for a young player to play in the first team.”

“We’re privileged at this club,” he continued, “in that our fans are obsessed with our youth programme and our young players.

“It’s incredible for us. There’s nowhere quite like it in the world, for that connection between young players and supporters

“It’s fun for fans to turn up and make their own mind up about who they believe is talented and follow that player, watch that journey and maybe see them play in the first team one day and be able to say to their mates, ‘I remember him.’”

United's U21s celebrate in front of 1,400 travelling fans after the penalty shootout win at Stockport.

But it's not just enjoyable for fans, Cox says. It's a crucial contribution to an Academy player's progress here at United.

“The Premier League is the hardest league in the world to debut a young player in. But when our supporters turn up to watch our youth teams, they're directly aiding the development of those young players.

“So, any one of those 67,000 fans at the [2022] FA Youth Cup final was preparing Alejandro Garnacho to replicate his skills under pressure in a first-team game at Old Trafford.

“I think last season we saw him score against Wolves and he celebrated in the same corner as he did after the Youth Cup. That was a real tangible example of all that.”

Marc Jurado poses for a photo with a young fan at Leigh Sports Village last season.

United's Under-21s kick off against Stoke at 12:00 BST this Saturday, 26 August. Entry at Leigh Sports Village, which is approximately 16 miles from Old Trafford, is free for all supporters.

The men’s first team play a few hours later at home to Nottingham Forest and fans hoping to attend both games can do so, with sufficient time to travel by car between the two grounds.

In Saturday’s match programme, Nick talks in depth about the Academy’s philosophy, how it’s shaped by the club’s history and how exactly he and his staff measure ‘success’ for the Under-18 and Under-21 sides each season.

You can order a copy of United Review here, or buy it at Old Trafford on matchday.