Michael Carrick

There's lots of United interest in the play-offs

Thursday 11 May 2023 06:00

The regular EFL season drew to a close on Bank Holiday Monday, but there’s plenty of drama and excitement in store across the Championship, League One and League Two over the coming fortnight.

The play-offs get under way on Friday and, as you’ll discover, there is much interest from a Manchester United perspective.

Three Red loanees could be in action – one from each division – while other club connections are also competing.

Here’s your preview of what is always a must-watch part of the season, with thrills and spills guaranteed…

Loan Watch: Three Reds on the scoresheet


Sunderland star Amad was one of a trio of United youngsters to find the net in the latest round of matches.


Sunderland v Luton Town (13/16 May)
Coventry v Middlesbrough (14/17 May)

Amad is arguably United’s headline loanee this season and the young Ivorian inspired Sunderland to a late-season surge that saw them pip Blackburn Rovers and Millwall to the final play-off spot on a dramatic final day. The 20-year-old winger has contributed 13 goals and four assists to the Black Cats’ promotion push and will be the key man in Tony Mowbray’s side’s bid to get past Luton Town, who impressively finished third under Rob Edwards.

The other game pits together two former Reds in opposing dugouts, with Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough up against Mark Robins’ Coventry City. Carrick, who was, of course, our former assistant boss and took caretaker charge briefly last season, has guided Boro - with a squad including former team-mate Paddy McNair - from 21st in the league back in October to fourth, while Robins’ achievements are even more impressive. The man who many say ‘saved’ Sir Alex Ferguson’s Old Trafford career was appointed by the Sky Blues in 2017 and, despite an early relegation to League Two, the former striker has overseen two promotions amid significant upheaval off the pitch.


Peterborough United v Sheffield Wednesday (12/18 May)
Bolton Wanderers v Barnsley (13/19 May)

Shola Shoretire netted his first senior goal during Sunday’s 3-2 win at Bristol Rovers, as Bolton sealed fifth spot in League One following a promising campaign under Ian Evatt for the Papa Johns Trophy winners, who also have Academy graduate Kieran Lee in their ranks. They’ll be underdogs against a Barnsley side which kept pace with the top three for much of this year, until a late slump.

Sheffield Wednesday will be favourites to go up, having amassed 96 points during the regular season, but Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United will fancy their chances of an upset, having beaten Barnsley to overtake Derby County in the final play-off spot. Ferguson – son of Sir Alex – made 28 league appearances for the Reds between 1990 and 1994 and is currently in his fourth managerial stint with The Posh. He’s something of a League One promotion specialist too, having guided the Cambridgeshire side up from this tier in 2009, 2011 and 2021.

Watch Shola Shoretire's goal for Bolton at Bristol Rovers.


Salford City v Stockport County (13/20 May)
Bradford City v Carlisle United (14/20 May)

The League Two play-offs get under way with a mouthwatering all-Greater Manchester clash between Salford City, managed by our former Under-21s boss Neil Wood, and Stockport County. The links between United and Salford have been well-documented since their ascent to League Two in 2019, but Wood has the Ammies on the cusp of a historic promotion to the third tier in his first season in charge. United youngster Ethan Galbraith has made 38 appearances during his loan spell at the Peninsula Stadium, scoring four times. Stockport are aiming for a second successive promotion, having only ended their 11-year exile from the league last season. Veteran full-back Phil Bardsley joined in late 2022 but hasn’t featured in a matchday squad since January.

It's Bradford City v Carlisle United in the other two-legged tie, with the Bantams managed by Reds great Mark Hughes. Sparky dropped down the divisions to take the reins at Valley Parade in February 2022, with the former Premier League outfit struggling in the lower reaches of League Two. It’s been a different story this season, though, and the West Yorkshire club confirmed their place in the play-offs on Monday with a draw against champions Leyton Orient, having been firmly ensconced in the top seven for much of the campaign.

Neil Wood has made an instant impact at Salford, after cutting his teeth with our youth sides.


Saturday 27 May: Championship (16:45 BST)
Sunday 28 May: League Two (13:30 BST)
Monday 29 May: League One (15:00 BST)

All three finals will take place at Wembley Stadium.