How fans can aid the next United generation
Head of Academy Nick Cox has explained how Manchester United supporters can actually aid in the development of our young players.
After a long spell of playing in front of empty stadiums, the fact fans can now attend a lot of younger-age fixtures is of real benefit to the individuals involved as it helps to recreate the experience of senior football.
There is a big double-header at Leigh Sports Village with United meeting Villarreal in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday (13:00 BST kick-off) and facing Liverpool at Under-23s level on Saturday (14:00 BST kick-off).
The Villarreal game is live on MUTV but, unfortunately due to the Premier League rules regarding live coverage, the Liverpool game clashes with top-flight games and only highlights will be available on the official channel.
Nonetheless, for those not attending the senior side's fixture against Everton, there is an opportunity to cheer Neil Wood's side on in person at Leigh on both occasions, with the players and staff really appreciating the support.
"I can't stress enough the importance of supporters coming to watch the young players," Cox told us. "I'm always quick to explain how our boys are not a first team and winning is not the only objective as development underpins everything.
“We should not look at our boys as a first team and it isn't about who has been picked this week or hasn't. It's not about that. We're slightly different to what you see with the first team but having supporters in the stadiums is absolutely fundamental to the development of our players.
“I hadn't realised how much we missed them until they returned. Those 2,000 fans at Leigh Sports Village, it makes all the difference for the boys to feel a bit of pressure, for the boys to be given a lift by the crowd, for the boys to have to play in the spotlight with supporters. It's amazing and helps pave the way for what it might feel like if they eventually go out to play at Old Trafford.
“It's important to thank all of the fans who do turn up. I was at Lincoln a few weeks ago, in the EFL Trophy, and, in the last 20 minutes, there were only a handful of fans, dedicated fans, but they were unbelievable. Just the simple act of the boys going to applaud the crowd at the end of the game was something they had never done before.
“So it's wonderful and thanks to the supporters for doing that. It's important we remind them that they are playing a part in the development of the next generation. They are creating the environment and it's an unbelievably important factor in helping us get to where we need to be. I hope to see them back many more times this season."
United opened Group F in the UEFA Youth League with a 1-0 win at Young Boys, courtesy of Shola Shoretire's first-half goal.
Villarreal started with a 2-0 win over Atalanta and should provide stern opposition on Wednesday afternoon.
The 13:00 BST kick-off will be shown live on MUTV.