Cox pleased with United Under-21s' progress

Wednesday 08 March 2023 17:00

Nick Cox, Director of the Manchester United Academy, says he and his staff are “delighted” with the progress our Under-21s are making.

Under the tutelage of lead coach Mark Dempsey, the young Reds have grown during the 2022/23 campaign, with many of them playing one to two years above their age group.

The team's most recent outing, against Chelsea at Leigh Sports Village, may have ended in defeat but Cox has praised the way our young players are dealing with the challenge this season.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said the Academy director, in a recent interview with club media.

“You want to win, and you want to play well, but our job is to help individuals to learn how to play the game for their own betterment.

“The big thing for us on the matchday is [that] our boys apply themselves in a way that we think is going to prepare them for the first team.

“So we are really pleased with the performances, particularly since the turn of the year. We’ve seen performances also turn into results and that really is down to Mark Dempsey and his team.

“I can’t praise [him] enough and I know that he has a really skilled group of staff around him, not just coaches. We’re really pleased with how the team are going and with how the staff are supporting the young players.”

By playing above their age group, the young Reds in our Under-21s squad face more challenges, but Cox says this is a necessary step in aiding their individual development – the overarching aim of our Academy.

“Ultimately we are preparing them for life, hopefully, in the most competitive league in the world where they are going to be expected to win,” he continued. “The [key] driver for the Academy and for our staff is individual development.

“In order to promote individual development, you actually have to stretch the players and sometimes put them in a difficult environment. So what we do with the Under-21s is keep the average age really low. For the first half of the season the average age of our Under-21s was 19 so we were regularly coming up against teams that were a year to a year-and-a-half older. 

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“We could see the development and we could see the returns that the boys were getting from finding it really tough. The season panned out exactly as we thought it would and Dempsey and his team of staff did an incredible job.

“We were really delighted to see the kind of progress people were making, and what’s happening now in the second part of the season is a lot of those boys who found it tough are now finding it comfortable.

“To see the amount of boys that are being really stretched and playing in some tough environments is exciting for us and fair play to the coaches – I make their life difficult. [But] that’s how you prepare footballers for the ultimate challenge which is to go on and make a debut.”

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Our Under-21s' away derby against Manchester City has been given a new kick-off time. The match, which will take place on Sunday 19 March, had previously been scheduled to start at 14:00 GMT but it will now commence two hours earlier at 12:00 GMT.

The venue remains unchanged, with the sides locking horns at the Manchester City Academy Stadium.