Nicky Butt.

Butt expects challenges for United youngsters

Nicky Butt believes Manchester United's youngsters may receive some valuable lessons next season - but they will stand them in good stead for their future careers.

A club with a much-envied track record of producing homegrown talent for the first team appreciates the bigger picture. Results in Premier League 2 and the Under-18 Premier League will not be the barometer for success but rather whether more teenagers can ultimately join the four men who started the Europa League semi-final with Sevilla (Brandon Williams, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood) in being called upon for such huge fixtures. Overall, eight Academy players made their senior debuts in 2019/20.

As a number of last season's promotion-winning Under-23s squad are likely to depart on loan, with Aliou Traore (Caen) and Tahith Chong (Werder Bremen) already on the move, the emphasis will be on blooding younger players by moving them into older age-groups.

Teden Mengi and James Garner.
Young players, such as Teden Mengi and James Garner, have been with the first team in Germany.

In an interview held at Littleton Road, during training for the Under-23s and Under-18s in the Salford sunshine, the former Treble winner spoke about the upcoming campaign. In his role as head of first-team development, he appreciates the desire to ensure more Academy players force their way into the first team is something that is in the club's DNA. 

The latest youth-teamer to push into the senior side is Teden Mengi and the defender was on the bench for the tie with Sevilla in Germany, providing further evidence that the system continues to work at the Aon Training Complex, as the club looks to produce youngsters capable of breaking into a successful senior side.

“There are going to be young sides, which can bring challenges within itself,” Butt told us. “As a club, the fans, supporters and everyone involved, knows our goal is to get players into the first team.

“We're the best at that, we're still getting players into the first team now, and that's the be all and end all. With that, we want to give the kids the environment to become winners and enjoy their football. Young people enjoy it when they're winning all the time and scoring goals. So it's a very fine balance.

“We've got to do what we feel is the best way, giving young people a chance by playing them young in competitions and letting them make mistakes, letting them get a beating and letting us all sit there in the changing room really disappointed.

“If you look at them around the changing room, you know they're getting beat but they're going to become players and it's much, much better than looking at older boys, who are past that level, winning games and there's no end product.

Hannibal.
Although only 17, Hannibal has been training with the Under-23s in pre-season.

“We've got some good young players,” he added. “And we've had them over the years and they've all had a time where they've been beaten and all had a time when they get to win. The end game is getting into the first team or having careers in the game.

“It is what we do well and, this year, there is no difference. The older ones will go out on loan in the next month or so and the younger ones will step up. It's the history of the club and what it has always been.”

The opportunity to look at role models within the system who are proof that the production line is working should not be underestimated. For those who can make the breakthrough, the rewards are obvious.

“Everyone has got their ambitions and they all can look at what to strive to,” said Butt. “They can look at the lads who have done so well playing in the first team, playing lots of games now. Marcus has had so many games at a young age, Brandon is stepping into the fore now, Scott McTominay. I don't need to name them as you know them all.

“The lads have got an abundance of players to aspire to be like and we're proud of them all.

“Hopefully, the next one will come along in the next few years and, if that happens, we're all doing our jobs well and it will help the manager, and the club, get to where it wants to be.”

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