The Premier League has made a major change to its PL2 rules this season that will affect the Manchester United youth side. From now on only players 21 and under will be allowed to play in the the Premier Leagues second division. The U21’s are now the reserve side, no longer will a U23 side exist. This has some damning consequences for a lot of players caught in between a first team breakthrough and still needing game time. It also means players like James Garner, 21 currently, have little to no time left to put in another season with the reserves.
The changes made to PL2 will be good for forcing Premier League clubs to make moves on young players quicker. Garner, for example, now must either be given his shot for the United first team or be sold. Reports recently are he will be sold for around 20 million pounds. This will be odd news to the ears of United fans. The United midfield is a shambles, so not giving a young promising player that helped Nottingham Forest get back into the Premier League last season is baffling. Nevertheless, this is the way things are currently at Manchester United. Unfortunately, the U21 team has opened the new campaign with two straight losses just like the first team.
Arsenal 3 – Manchester United Youth 1
With many of the youth teams star players of last season now ridding the bench for Eric ten Hag, the team appears quite different. They will need time to gel as a squad. Charlie McNeil and Charlie Savage may be the only two players many United fans would recognize in their lineup against Arsenal. The changes made to the side from last season were clear to see.
Arsenal were the much better side in this one and virtually doubled United’s shot total, outshooting United 20-9. Although, United did just out possess Arsenal 53% to 47%, but this would mainly be down to Arsenal defending deeper when they took the lead in the second half. United did come out hot though, and it was Charlie Wellens that scored in the 14th minute. The lead would not last though, as United would go on to concede the equalizer just before half time. Then in the second half United would surrender two more goals.
This was a match to forget for the young Red Devils. Though, it’s important to remember it will take time for the squad to find its rhythm. Gernacho, Iqbal, Shoretire, and Hannibal were all out of the side. Those three players were some of the best in all of the PL2 last season.
Crystal Palace 5 – Manchester United Youth 1
The story was much the same for the Manchester United youth team on August 12th against Crystal Palace. Palace currently sit top of PL2 and are a tough side, but surrendering 5 goals is never good. Especially when Will Fish, a talented young centre back, returned to the side for this fixture. Fish was beaten badly by Gordon for Palace’s second. Charlie McNeil was moved to the bench after the loss to Arsenal and J.M.M. Piedrahita made the start at the number 9 position. Shoretire also made his way back into the side for this one.
It did not take long for things to go sour as Palace scored in the 6th minute and one more time before half time. Although, Charlie Savage would score a goal in first half stoppage time to cut the deficit in half. Going into the locker room at the half down 2-1, United needed to come out firing in the second. But, it was anything other than an inspired second half. United gave up 3 more goals to end the day. Ben Mee, the goalkeeper, had a day to forget. His poor performance was certainly highlighted after the match, as he was caught out of position badly for Palace’s third.
This is a loss the youth team will need to put behind them, and fast. Much like the first team, a result in match week 3 is of the upmost importance.
Looking Ahead to Everton
The U21’s will take on Everton on August 19th for their 3rd match of the season. The Toffees are currently 2-0 with 4 goals scored and 0 surrendered. This is an away match for the young lads, and it is a match they must find a way to get a result in. I’d expect to possibly see the likes of Iqbal, Gernacho, or Hannibal back in the side. Eric ten Hag wants to get them more involved in the first team, but they do need game time. Their addition back into the side will surely help the team find more cohesion again.
Marc Dempsey and Paul McShane will have a lot of work to do.
Young Loanee Update
Meanwhile, positive news for United youngsters. Alvaro Fernandez made his first start for Preston North End this last weekend and had two assists. The Spaniard had made appearances off the bench in the fist two matches of the season. Preston North End’s boss Lowe had this to say of the United left back after the match:
“He’s an immaculate kid though, isn’t he?” said Lowe. “Everything about him. He’s asked questions on a daily basis, is playing a different role to what he is probably used to at Manchester United – as a left wing-back for us, not left-back.”-Adam Marshall of ManUnited.com
Perhaps Fernandez’s loan spell will be cut short, should United continue to have trouble’s this season. This is a player to keep an eye on.