Manchester United U21s Update

The U21s side for Manchester United currently sits in 7th place of the Premier League 2 division. They are 5 points off the top 4 and its all been quite a turn around considering the first half of the season. There was a point in which I took the time to write a piece about just how bad the U21s had been playing and how poor the coaching staff has been. I don’t believe I was wrong at the time but I am very happy things have turned around. The squad is far from perfect and their is still a lot of work to do but these young lads are getting better.

The team is coming off a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea. The match was all square at 1-1 in the 80th minute. But United U21s surrendered 2 goals in the final 10 minutes to lose the match.

Two Players in Top Form

More specifically, Joe Hugill is emerging as a top striker in the EPL2. After the departure of Charlie McNeil on loan in January, many wondered how the team would fare without their number 1 striker. Well, perhaps Mark Dempsey knew something none of us did. Joe Hugill has came in to take over the number 9 duties and he’s already outperforming Charlie McNeil. Hugill has scored 9 goals in 9 straight matches. The inform Hugill won the PL2 player of the month for February.

Meanwhile, Hugills counterpart Omari Forson was short listed for the February player of the month. Forson began the month in fine form. Having just scored a couple goals in a win over Blackburn to end January. To begin February he managed a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Everton.

Joe Hugill and Omari Forson are the stars of this team right now. Both players have aspirations of being called up the first team one day.

Omari Forson

U21s – Loanee Watch

The young lads out on loan are also getting a lot of game time lately. Several players are getting quality game time, while a couple are not playing at all.

Amad is still in fine form for Sunderland but the squad on the whole are slumping. Sunderland just lost 5-1 to Stoke City. Amad will have his eyes on the next pre season already, with his sights set on busting into the first team.

Shola Shoretire has gotten a lot of game time so far and just started Bolton Wanderers last match.

Hannibal has been reduced to mostly a sub/rotation role for Birmingham.

Charlie Savage has been brilliant for Forest Green Rovers thus far. Savage just won player of the month for the club.

Ethan Galbraith of Salford City just recently took on Charlie McNeil and Newport County. The ex United player owned club in Salford City beat Newport 3-1.

Lastly, Alvaro Fernandez continues to impress with Preston Northend. The young Spaniard has received compliments publicly in several instances over the course of this season form his manager and fellow players. Fernandez is an excellent left wing back but he may end up being a player United will look to groom and sell with the likes of Luke Shaw and Tyrel Malacia currently holding down the left back position for the first team.

Alvaro Fernandez

Despite Critics the U21 side is serving its function

I’ve given no slack the the U21 side or its coaching staff over the course of this season but their is lots to be said for what they are doing outside of results. The United Academy aims to keep its sides as young as possible and move players out on loan to develop further. The average age of the U21 side to begin the season was just 19 years old compared to 20.5-21 amongst other sides.

The Manchester United Academy Director Nick Cox recently gave his input in an interview on the U21 side:

“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.”

Nick Cox 2023

Cox would go on to further praise the coaching staff and said the results are finally coming. Clearly figures in the club were not pleased with the results in the first half of the season but those like Cox said the performances were always there. While I would fight back on that a bit, I do see the reasons why the results haven’t been there and appetite the goal Cox has in mind.

“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.”

Nick Cox 2023

The goal of the Academy at the end of the day is to groom players for the next level. It’s always nice though when the results coincide.

The U21s will play host to Leicester City their next time out.

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