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Talented Academy stars training with Ricky Sbragia’s U23’s ahead of West Ham fixture

Manchester United U23 coach Ricky Sbragia has some of the more talented second-year professionals from Kieran McKenna’s U18 squad training with his players ahead of United’s clash with West Ham United at Leigh Sports Village in the Premier League 2 this evening. The match will be shown live on MUTV from 18:30 GMT, KO 19:00 GMT. This is welcoming as the U23’s clearly need some improvement this season as they seek a better finish in the league after slipping to eleventh in the league, second from the bottom, achieving just 11 points in the twelve matches they have played.

It has not been stated which players from the U18’s are training at U23 level, but Angel Gomes could be one after Nicky Butt, the Head of the Academy tipped the player to challenge for a place in the U23’s in 2018 after signing his first professional contract with the club last month. Many will be looking to see Gomes rise through the ranks into the first team, especially after making his debut in the final home match in the Premier League last season. Speaking to the official Manchester United website about the players training with the U23’s currently, U18 coach Kieran McKenna said:

“It’s something very much in our minds in the second half of the year. We want the second years to be exposed to that training and hoping to push for opportunities in the Under-23s. It’s a goal for them in the first week back after Christmas.

“The Under-23s will have a bigger group and it’s a little taster of that environment for the younger boys. It’s up to them to make an impression that helps them when they get integrated into that group in the second half of the campaign, going into next year.

“We speak to the players about it and tell them that, in Academy football, you get two chances to reboot the computer and refocus. One is at the end of a season and the other one is midway through, as we’re lucky enough to get a winter break at our level. They’re all going through the process of looking back at the first half of the season and what they did well, and identifying where they want to get better. We’ve identified some areas where they’re looking to kick on now. 

“It’s an important period of reflection. In the first team, we don’t get the chance to stop until the end of the season but our young players, and staff as well, can take stock halfway through and reflect where they’re at and where we want them to get to next. We’re laying down a programme and some goals for the second half of the campaign.”

Whether any of the players are selected for this evenings match is something we will have to wait and see. United will be boosted at this level by the return of Devonte Redmond who saw his loan spell with Scunthorpe United come to an end, which consisted of one minute of League football, 21 minutes of League Cup football and four appearances in the Football League Trophy, basically a reserve competition, which equates to 22 minutes of first team football in the first half of the season. The lad will be itching to play a game of football at United.

United do have a good crop of youngsters at the AON Training Complex with Tahith Chong, Gomes, Luca Ercolani, Aiden Barlow and Nishan Burkart. It is unlikely that the U18’s will be left high and dry with all of these players being promoted, but as part of their development, they should be given the chance to challenge for a place in the U23’s as sooner or later they will be part of that squad anyway. Gomes is a player who many United supporters want to see in the first team, but with him having little experience at U23 level, I would like to see how he fares here first, then see if he is deemed ready for more.

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