Since Nicky Butt was appointed Manchester United Academy chief a lot of changes have been made, including structure, staff, and facilities improvement that has created a positive environment among academy ranks. Those who have mostly been affected by this wind of change are the U18’s who now have a new manager, former Spurs academy manager Kieran McKenna who has completely transformed the side.
With new additions to the squad with the likes of Tahith Chong, Nishan Burkart, and Lee O’Connor things seem to go well, as this team has overcome the issues they had last year, showing huge improvement. Now they sit second in the league behind City and were unlucky against Southampton last Monday, where two late goals meant that they were out of the FA Youth Cup. Big disappointment as many of us including the players expected a run this season but things didn’t go well for them. However, there’s no time for regret as Kieran McKenna has made a detailed plan to improve the players, step up their game and develop them further.
The boss is bringing the best out of them this season and is willing to create an exciting programme that will benefit the players a lot in their road to glory. In an interview for Manchester Evening News, McKenna spoke about his previous experience at Tottenham Hotspur and how this helped the youngsters:
“Tottenham took their young players on a lot of tours. They did it fantastically with their international tour programme. We travelled six or seven times a year with the youth team to different parts of the world. I went to Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia and America a few times and we went on several tours in Europe as well.”
The U18’s traveled in late October in Slovakia where the side beat MSK Zilina and that trip gave the opportunity to the manager to work on some technical issues. This can be rightly called as an annual excursion of the U18s and it can be noted that first team player Marcus Rashford and Adnan Januzaj, on loan at Sunderland have been part of the travelling squads to Slovakia in 2013 and 2011 respectively.
Before going into that trip the manager was pretty confident that the players would learn a lot from it, helping them understand key parts of the game and win valuable experience as well:
“We’re travelling to Slovakia for a training camp. It’ll be fantastic to get some of the boys away during the season to spend some together. We’ll have four or five days out there. We can work on some things during the mini-break and come back to start a new phase of the season from there, running right through until Christmas.
“We’ll play a local side out there. I’ve done similar things before with previous clubs and it’s a great chance to get the boys away for a mental refresher. It’s a good chance to get to know them really well off the pitch and have a game against foreign opposition as well.”
Similarly to this experience, McKenna’s side will play in Germany for the Sparkasse and VGH Cup that starts on the 5th January 2017 in Gottingen. This is a five-side tournament where United will play FSV Mainz 05, Hamburger SV, and Sparta Gottingen. This is the first year they participate in this competition and are hoping to improve a lot during the tournament.
How important can this be? It may seem just like another tour but considering the importance of winning experience this can benefit a lot to the youngsters. The U18’s have plenty of talented youngsters that can easily make the break in the first team or become for the Reserves soon. Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Callum Gribbin, DJ Buffonge, Indy Boonen etc are looking forward to their chances and improve specific parts of their games. The lack of talent has never been an issue when it comes to United youngsters, but their attitude has defined their future. This generation needs to understand better than anyone and the best way to learn this is by taking them into mini-tours showing the importance of a football game, playing in front of a crowd and creating their own identity. Interesting is the fact that both Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer have participated in this tournament giving a new perspective to this experience, encouraging the young players.
The fact that the players will experience something new, change the environment, confront different teams and also add values, making them not just better football players but also better people:
“Something like the trip to Slovakia takes the players out of their normal training routine and environment. We went up to the mountains and gave them a different life experience. It is good because it is a mental refresher. The international programme can add value to young players it is something we are going to look to advance here at United over the next couple of years.”
This is not the only trip McKenna is willing to make and he will also propose mini-tours to develop them more. The education project seems exciting and the results of the work the U18s manager has done so far is obvious leading them into a successful campaign and getting the players involved in something new will make them more competitive, play as a team and give all they can for what they mostly love.