Manchester United U18s are proof the future at the club is bright

Many fans of rival Premier League sides have mocked Manchester United this season as the U23s, were relegated to Division 2 of Premier League 2, which hardly fits with the legacy of producing strong Academy prospects who can develop and be ready for first-team minutes. However, whilst the U23 side struggled this season, Kieran McKenna’s U18 side won the Premier League North, scoring 65 goals in 22 games in the process. Although they went on to lose to Jody Morris’ Chelsea side in the National final, many positives can be taken from this season for the young reds.

Perhaps most well-renowned of the players in and around this side are Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, with the former winning the Jimmy Murphy award, given to the best U18 player, last year and the latter winning it this season. However, both have now become more incorporated with the U23 side and only featured in the National final against Chelsea due to the absence of some players who were at the U17 European Championships.

Amongst these on youth international duty is Jimmy Garner, who has captained United on various occasions this season despite only being a first-year scholar. In 20 appearances in the league this season, Garner scored four goals and provided four assists, largely from a deep-lying midfield position. His performances have been assured and have resulted in him being a pivotal part of the side’s core. Consequently, the 17-year old has captained England and was nominated for the Jimmy Murphy Award alongside Chong. He may still have a role to play for the U18s next season, but it would not be surprising to see him promoted to the U23 side next season to provide a greater challenge and continue his development.

The other nominee for the best U18 player of the season was Lee O’Connor, the 17-year-old Irishman who has also captained the side at times this season. O’Connor is a second-year scholar who performed well last season, and his performances this have seen him play five games for the U23s as well as 17 for McKenna’s side. He has also been capped for the Irish National side at U16, U17, and U19 level. His versatility means he can fill in at centre-half, either fullback or even slot into midfield when required. He is one who will certainly be used more frequently for Ricky Sbragia’s side next season.

There have also been international call-ups for various others in this side, demonstrating what a talented crop of players McKenna has at his disposal. Largie Ramazani (Belgium), Arnau Puigmal (Spain), and Ethan Laird (England) are all alongside Garner in representing their countries at the ongoing Under-17 Euros, whilst others like Nishan Burkart (Switzerland) and Dylan Levitt (Wales) have been capped.

Levitt has been crucial to his domestic side, forming a strong partnership with Garner at the base of midfield and providing the platform for the attacking flair of Burkart, Ramazani, Puigmal, and Mason Greenwood to flourish. This has come despite both being first-year scholars, and the time they will have to develop this partnership further can only be beneficial for United’s future.

Greenwood is being increasingly talked about after a fantastic season. Despite only turning 16 last October, he scored 16 goals and provided four assists in 17 games for the U18s this season, and was only left out of the England U17 squad for the Euros so he could focus on his GCSEs. He may be given some chances for the U23s next season, and it will only make for an increasingly competitive side which will be looking to bounce straight back up to the first division.

That many of the side are first-year scholars is even more promising, and with the likes of Teden Mengi starting to make a breakthrough, the reel of talented United youngsters will continue to run.

Written by Rob Potter

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