Binnion: What sets our youth system apart
Manchester United Under-18s lead coach Travis Binnion has explained his philosophy when it comes to player development and how important it is for him to produce first-team players.
The former Sheffield United Academy manager, who joined United in 2019, was previously Under-16s coach and is now looking after the older set-up. Binnion is clear that he wants to make sure that the promising youngsters can make the step all the way into the first-team.
On 14 December 2019, United played their 4000th match in a row with an Academy graduate in the first-team squad, a record which is still going strong, having started all the way back in 1938.
"The track record at this football club is second to none," Binnion said.
"Our job is to make sure that keeps going and we’ve done it better than anyone for such a long time now, consistently. Other clubs obviously produce good players but I think our consistency is what sets us apart from our competitors really. We just have to keep that going.
"It’s almost a given that we have to produce players who can do that. That’s what we’re trying to do."
Our Under-18s coach also highlights the fact that a lot of the first-team set-up, among them manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has worked in the Academy previously.
"Obviously, there are relationships as well with the staff in the first-team," Binnion said.
"A lot of people have been here a long time, worked in the youth department, worked in the Academy, so there's real good knowledge and understanding of the players. This club's got an unrivalled track record in terms of progressing players and pushing them on and we will continue to do that."
Whilst coaching the Under-18s, Binnion will continue in his role as head of player development and coaching for the U14 to U16 age group.
"I still have an oversight over Under-14s to Under-16s, so I think it’s a key transition, from Under-16s to Under-18s, from schoolboy to scholarship and full-time football," he said.
"To keep that continuity and understand their backstory and where they are in the game. Obviously, we have staff that have worked with them as well, in terms of Justin [Cochrane], Colin [Little] and Wolfie [Kevin Wolfe] and Demps [Mark Dempsey], so I think they've got a nice blend of someone they’re used to and some new voices as well. To get that continuity in development is really important."
The 34-year-old is clear that developing the youngsters as human beings and treating people individually is key to getting the most out of our talented Academy players.
"It’s not all about receiving skills, technical ability, tactical ability but connecting with the kids to understand where they've got to develop their game, because they’ve all got different development points," Binnion explained.
"Like I said, having the backstory on that, understanding the strides they’ve made already, is really important because none of them is the finished article. Players in the first-team are still developing with their individual plans. At 15, 16, 17, there’s still a hell of a long way to go and so much potential still to untap."
At the same time, he believes it’s important to remember that his charges are very young and that the spotlight of being at United is important to recognise.
"Yeah, that that balances is huge. Alright, they are still kids. We ask a lot of them,” the Under-18s coach said.
"They make sacrifices, but it's our job to show them what what strides they're making so they can see and feel it for themselves. And because the outcome, if successful, is the best job in the world. So, we we’re supportive with that but, of course, we still have a lot of fun."