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Manchester United have plans for Hannibal Mejbri but not in the first team just yet

Manchester United U23 manager Neil Wood has confirmed that the club has plans for French midfielder Hannibal Mejbri after signing the player a year ago from principality club AS Monaco. The player will remain part of the clubs youth set up rather than be promoted to the first team. The 17-year-old impressed during his first season at the club, which was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. The player made 20 appearances for the U18s and U23s, scoring one goal and five assists.

The French midfielder arrived at United in what seemed like a high-profile transfer last summer with United paying £9.3 million, if all clauses in the contract are met. It is fair to say that the player has considerable talent and Monaco will have been upset to let the player leave the club. In the future he could become one of the best players in the world providing he keeps his development heading in the right direction. United would not have spent what they had on the player if they did not see his potential.

15 of Mejbri’s appearances (14 starts and one substitute appearance) came ay U18 level last season with five appearances (one start and four substitute appearances) at U23 level. It would seem that the French midfielder will be playing amongst the U23s this season after they gained promotion to the top-flight of the Premier League 2 this season after the league was suspended and promptly cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. He will probably feature in the UEFA Youth League with United back in the UEFA Champions League.

The Manchester Evening News has spoken to Neil Wood, the U23 manager about the Frenchman, seemingly looking to find out whether he will be promoted to the first team anytime soon. However, it was revealed that the club have plans for the player and they will not be making any quick decisions on the progress of the player, which could cause problems if he was promoted too early. It would seem that some see the player’s price tag and assume he’s a first team player. Wood said:

“I think what you need to remember is Hannibal is still a young lad, he is only 17. He’s not long been here really, he is probably coming up to almost a first completed season if that.

“I think people get sucked into the price-tag, and again that is not Hannibal’s fault. So I think he is a young player with potential, he is one of the young players we have got with potential, but there is still a lot of development and learning which needs to be put into him.

“We still need to get him to a higher level to get him to even go and train with the first-team, so there is no rush to start pushing him in that first-team environment right now.

“I think the challenge is going to be enough for him at U23s right now and we are going to push him and try to move him up as quick as we can, but at the same time we won’t rush him if he’s not ready to do that.”

It is good to see the club tread carefully with a player who could well be a world star in a few years time. The player will be happy to play football at U23 level, which will be good for him along with the inclusion in the UEFA Youth League, which will see the club come up against other teams who have qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season. When United see progress with the player, he may be given chances at first team level. He will be enthused to see that Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood have progressed into the first team during the 2019/20 season and should see that if he impresses the world could be his oyster.

Written by John Walker

Hannibal Mejbri has talent and could make the rise like Mason Greenwood

It would be fair to say that 18-year-old Mason Greenwood is a generational talent at Manchester United after his meteoric rise to the first team and the fact he has made 48 appearances for the club so far this season, scoring 16 goals and assisting five more. He has played 2,329 minutes of football so far this season, with three more matches of the domestic season left to play before the UEFA Europa League commences – he is one exciting prospect at the club; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is pleased.

That said, Greenwood is not the only exciting player at the Old Trafford club, especially in the youth ranks. Last summer, United signed 16-year-old Hannibal Mejbri, now 17, who had a good season, despite youth football ending back in March because of the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football, cancelling many leagues in Europe. The French teenager is highly rated and his transfer was kept under wraps last summer, as much as it could have been anyway.

His departure will be rued by AS Monaco, who seem to have lost a player who could be a generational talent. Mejbri has made 20 appearances for United at U18 and U23 level this season, starting 15 times and coming off the bench five times, scoring one goal, assisting five more. Granted, he may have a lot more to do in order to make his meteoric rise to the first team but Solskjaer will be watching his progress closely as he looks at add more creativity, drive, determination and flair into the midfield.

There were many reports in the media about Mejbri’s prospective (at the time) move to United but they kept it as quiet as they could with rumours coming out close to the time the player arrived at the club. Nicky Butt, who at the times was the head of the clubs academy, now the head of first team development, responsible for academy players making the rise into the first team, just like he did from the Class of 1992 all those years ago. Mejbri, if he keeps in the right track, will end up doing the same. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News back in February, Butt, speaking about Mejbri, said:

“Hannibal [Mejbri]’s a leader. The way he plays his football is 100mph, he’s non-stop running up and down.

“He’s got his own path. We make sure when we sign players we always speak to the parents and give them an example of all different ways of getting into Manchester United’s first-team.

“Hannibal is different to Paul [Pogba] when Paul was a youth team player. He’s not as powerful as Paul, he isn’t as dominant as him, he’s a different kind of player to Paul but we all know about the talent he’s got. It’s been written out there in the press many times with the signing and the fee.

“But he’s a young man who’s come to a new country who needs a bit of time. He’s a very, very talented boy but he’s still very immature. He’s still a baby, he’s just 17.

“He’s not got anything on him just yet, he needs to build up his size and build up his physicality. Talent-wise, he’s got such an immense talent to go on and play at a high level but there’s a long way to go yet.”

United paid £9.3 million for Mejbri last summer, which was reported by The Sun, also in February, which might be a lot of money for an unproven teenager, but it just shows how valued he was by Monaco, despite the fallout between him and the club which has been catalogued in multiple places since, even written about by this website (which you can read here). If the player continues on his rise to stardom, which is something he can do at United, he is going to be a massive talent.

At the time United signed the player, there was a lot of hype surrounding him, which is something that Butt wanted to shield him from, protecting the player in his tender years so it did not affect him at a later stage. This does not seem to be the case though, the player did not even rise to abuse from Leeds United supporters when United beat them in the FA Youth Cup earlier this season. t could show his character, which will help him succeed in the future. As reported by The Sun, Butt spoke about signing Mejbri, saying:

“It’s hard to get him under the radar when we’ve chased him for so long and he’s come from a big club for a big fee, so that’s impossible.

“But you want to get young people under the radar because, coming from a different country and getting the price tag in your head and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world, there’s going to be so much pressure in the first place.

“I’ve got a 16-year-old kid who, I would hate that pressure on their shoulders…

“But they have that and it’d be foolish to put them out there too soon, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. They’re children.”

It shows that the protection is there from the club, especially Butt who knows that it is like to come through the academy and on the cusp of first team football, presumably why he’s in the role of helping players develop between youth and senior football now, looking out for the player and th rigours of what is to come. Could Mejbri be a shock promotion to the first team this summer for Solskjaer? Could he be involved in the UEFA Europa League this season? Who knows? One thing is for sure, the more you hear about Hannibal Mejbri now, will make you thirstier to see that the player can do in the near future. Can he rise like Greenwood did? He has the talent, in time you will see.

Written by John Walker

Mason Greenwood is one of the best players Nicky Butt has ever worked with – he’s going to be a star

Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood is one of the best that Nicky Butt has ever worked with, according to Jamie Redknapp. The academy graduate, 18, has impressed massively in his first season as a first team player, making 38 appearances, scoring 12 goals and four assists in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season.

Butt used to be the head of the clubs academy but during last summer, he moved within the club and is now the head of first team development, acting as the official at the club that will guide other academy graduates into the first team, similar to what happened at the club during Sir Alex Ferguson’s near 27-year reign of the club.

Butt is probably one of the best candidates for this role at the club, overseeing the academy for a number of years, now using his experience, as he came through the academy as a member of the Class of 1992, who achieved so much at United, including winning the treble at the club during the 1998/99 season.

Butt came through the same academy group as Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, and Phil Neville, not to mention Ryan Giggs, who was already a first team regular when the other five broke through. Butt though suggests that Greenwood is the best talent he has ever worked with. Jamie Redknapp confirmed the following:

“I remember talking to Nicky Butt about eight months ago. He said Mason Greenwood was the best young player he’s ever seen at Manchester United.

“That is some statement considering all the players they’ve produced, like the Class of 92. There’s nothing he can’t achieve with his pace and power.”

Greenwood seems to have gone so far in a short period of time and during the lockdown cause by the coronavirus pandemic, the player has developed into an athlete, showing that he is taking everything seriously. Granted, it might take some time to adapt a bit more and start showing the player he is at the highest level in club football.

Butt is not the only former United player that highly rates Greenwood. Former right-back and captain Gary Neville feels that Greenwood was the best rising star at the club. The 18-year-old reminds me of Marcus Rashford based on his rise from the academy into the first time to becoming one of the best players that the club. Neville, when asked who he believed was the rising star at United, said:

“I would say Mason Greenwood. He can be anything he wants to be. He just looks like he’s got such great composure and quality. He’s great physically as well.

“If he continues to emerge like he’s shown at times this season I think Manchester United have got the real deal there.”

Solskjaer is happy with Greenwood too, especially after returning to the club after the lockdown with the club initially returning to training packed with muscle. With the Premier League run-in already commenced and United returning to Emirates FA Cup action this weekend against Norwich City. Solskjaer, speaking about Greenwood, said:

“Mason is a young boy. He’s still 18 and this lockdown period has done him all the good in the world. At his age, they do develop and fill out and Mason’s looking more and more like a man, so definitely it will help him.

“Sometimes early on you could see he was a kid. Now in training he can use his strength better and he has done really well over the three or four weeks we have been training now.

“And his quality in front of goal has always been there and now he has muscle to push defenders away. I am not sure it was deliberate but the fitness coaches have worked really well with him.

“He has got the rest and recovery period after for him what must have been an intense first full season with the first team. He is looking good.”

Nicky Butt is Manchester United’s new Head of First Team Development; who better than a former player to guide young stars?

Former Manchester United midfielder and Class of 1992 graduate Nicky Butt has been given a new role at the Old Trafford club by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. Butt returned to United 2012 as a coach and was then announced as the Head of the Academy in 2016, moving onto a new role this summer as part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reshuffle.

Butt has been made the Head of First Team Development and will work closely with Solskjaer. Butt will oversee the development of the likes of Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes, amongst others in their rise to the first team from the Academy ranks at the club. Butt will be looking to see younger players step up in the future.

The former midfielder is part of Manchester United’s DNA and will thrive in this new role, which also furthers his career at the club, growing from a coach to the head of the Academy, now in an important role which will concentrate on the talented players who will grow into regular first team players in the future. Butt, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Manchester United is in my DNA and this is a very proud moment for me as I take on this new role.

“I am passionate about nurturing, developing and coaching the talent we have here to become top players at this club.

“Under Ole’s leadership, our vision will ensure that we continue to provide the right environment for our young players to thrive in.”

Butt has been replaced by Nick Cox as the Head of the Academy. Cox spent eleven years at Watford, leaving in 2012 as the head of their Academy, becoming the Academy manager at Sheffield United, until 2016 when he became the Academy Operations Manager at United. Cox has worked with a variety of managers, such as; Sean Dyche, Brendan Rogers, Nigel Clough, Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer, also working with many young players making their rise in the game; Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert Lewin, David Brooks, Mason Greenwood, James Garner, Tahith Chong. Cox said:

“Having spent over 20 years working to support the development of young people, it is an honour to be asked to lead the Manchester United Academy.

“Traditionally we have always been leaders in creating an outstanding environment in which young footballers can thrive.

“Today’s changes will further enhance the excellent structure that we have in place to maximise the potential of all of our young players.”

Executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward also spoke about the new role for both Butt and Cox. It has been suggested for some time that United would have a Technical Director, a Sporting Director or a Director of Football with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher rumoured in the media. Perhaps this is the role that was touted? Woodward, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“These changes will further enhance the excellent work and results we have seen over many decades in our Academy system and enable us to continue our proud traditions of producing world-class players capable of playing and excelling in the first team.”

It may not have been what supporters expected but it does create a better path for those within the Academy who are destined for bigger and better things. What better way to be guided into the first team by someone who was in the same position themselves. It will be good to see the talent coming into the first team in the future. The likes of Greenwood, Chong, Garner and Gomes might be the bright lights at the moment but there is a lot more to come from the clubs Academy in the future.

The Manchester United U23s have been revamped but what are their expectations for the 2019/20 season…

Manchester United U23s found themselves relegated from the top flight of the Premier League 2 Division 1 at the end of the 2017/18 season, finishing twelfth with just 20 points after 22 matches were played. United only managed to score 22 goals that season, an average of one per match, conceding 40, nearly two per match.

A season on the Premier League 2 Division 2 seemed like a good thing a year ago, especially with the likes of Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, James Garner and even to an extent, Mason Greenwood coming through the ranks. It was seen at the time, at least by myself, that United would be able to get themselves back into the top flight at this level pretty easily.

How wrong was I? United finished sixth at this level, amassing just 30 points after 22 matches. They did score more goals – 33, conceding just 31, an improvement – but not much of one. That really was the only positive that could have been taken from a poor season, which at times seemed to match that of the first team, who towards the end of the season struggled to formulate anything.

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U23 coach Ricky Sbragia was sacked at the end of the season, something that was coming and the writing was already on the wall. The coaching of this team was poor and in terms of development, there were many players that were not going to cut it at the club. United’s announced that 13 players from the youth ranks; 12 from the U23s and one from the U18s would be released at the end of the season.

Regan Poole, Zak Dearnley, Tom Sang, Callum Whelan, Matty Willock, James Wilson, Matthew Olosunde, Tyrell Warren, DJ Buffonge, Callum Gribbin, Millen Baars, Josh Bohui and James Thompson all left the club. It was a shame for some but they had been playing at this level for a few years and just were not finding their way into the first team so had to be let go.

On Thursday, despite reports suggesting that Nemanja Vidic had been offered the role, Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune were announced as the lead coach and assistantfor the U23s for this coming season. It was also announced that academy director, Nicky Butt would also be assisting. Wood and Fortune have been left with a barebones squad for the upcoming season, however, there are many players likely to rise from the U18s into the U23 ranks before the start of the season.

United are currently left with five goalkeepers; Matej Kovar, Alex Fojticek and Paul Woolston (both offered new contracts), Dean Henderson and Kieran O’Hara, although the latter two may head out on loan with Sheffield United interested in Henderson for their first season back in the Premier League. In defence, United have; Max Taylor, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Demetri Mitchell, George Tanner, Luca Ercolani (who was being offered a new contract), and Lee O’Connor.

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In midfield, United have few backup options, based on the current squad, with just; Aidan Barlow (United took up the option to extend his deal this summer), Angel Gomes and Ethan Hamilton. In the forward roles, United have just Tahith Chong and Nishan Burkart. Obviously, this list does not include the likes of Garner, Greenwood, Aliou Traore, Arnau Puigmal, Dion McGhee, Dylan Levitt, and Largie Ramazani, to name a few.

It is possible that Wood and Fortune could bring some or all of these, maybe others into the fold, which will see them playing a much higher level of football, which after time will be beneficial for their development. The key thing that both coaches will need to sort out this season though will be to get this squad of players playing a good brand of football, which may get them noticed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the first team.

After these players are playing as a team and gelling together, the next step will be to get them winning matches and proving themselves at Division 2 level with the view of winning the league and getting back into Division 1 for the start of the 2020/21 season. This might be a challenge based on what we saw last season but with some good coaching and the player digging deep for their club, wonders could happen. If these squad of players wants to achieve things at this club and reach the first team, on a regular basis, this is the minimum that they will need to be doing.

Manchester United U23s relegated but Nicky Butt defends the Academy he’s helped to rebirth

Manchester United U23s were relegated from the Premier League 2 Division One on Monday evening after Derby County beat West Ham United 1-0, meaning the club could only finish as high as 11th place, providing they win their last match at home to Everton on Friday and Sunderland are defeated away to Swansea City on Monday. The likelihood is that United finish at the bottom of the table though, the position they have been in for a few months now.

Whilst many were quick to judge the Academy as a failure, without looking at facts or the work that has been done at the lower levels, the bigger picture tells you a lot about what United and Nicky Butt, the head of the Academy, have done to get the youth levels ready for the next decade or more. Two seasons ago, the U18s were the group that were struggling to achieve, losing 12 league matches in a row which saw Paul McGuinness leave the club. Since Butt has been involved in the Academy, recruitment has helped the lower age groups catch up.

Last season, after Butt had made some changes, the U18s finished second to Manchester City in the U18 Premier League North, finishing fourth in the top group in the second stage of the season. A year later, the U18s won the U18 Premier League North, having to face the Southern champions, Chelsea in a final game, with the structure of the U18 Premier League changing, again, ahead of the current season. Looking at the Academy a few years ago, there were changes that needed to be made, and they have.

Many would probably see the U23s as the area needing some help this season but in terms of developing youth, making changes form the top would not be all that beneficial. Players at U23 level only remain satisfied in that structure for a period of time, meaning that any changes would be in effect, pointless. Making the changes a few stages below, mostly at the same time, will garner a much better solution – the players rising through the ranks, solving the problems that way, providing their development continues to head in the right direction.

Whilst the U23s needed to be worked upon, the best way to do that would be to wait until next season and fill the squad with some of the players from the U18 ranks who would soon become too old for that level and the ones who were overachieving at the level, thus needing a bigger challenge. United have promoted both Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong to the U23s this season, the former currently on the sidelines through injury and the latter excelling and showing his abilities in the tougher Premier League 2.

Relegation will appease the ABUs who will assume it is another period of decline for United when in fact it will turn out to be something much different. Swansea City were playing in Division Two of the Premier League 2 last season and currently sit fourth in Division One, which shows that it is not the end of the world. Of course, the likes of Gomes, Chong and possibly even Mason Greenwood would not be playing against the best in the league next season but they will still be playing competitive football at this level.

Defending the entire Academy structure of United, Butt spoke to the BBC about it all, giving his opinions on the players at the clubs perusal, whether they could make it or not and how other clubs are not doing the same thing as United. Butt started by speaking about how he feels the Academy is thriving, saying:

“We are expected to develop players for Manchester United and bring them into the first team. In that respect, I think the academy is thriving massively.”

During a season, if there is an U23 squad of 20 players, Butt has suggested that five might be training with the first team, another five could be out at other clubs on loan which leaves ten players remaining. The team would then need to be bolstered by those at U18 level who need a bigger challenge or have grown out of the U18 league. Butt stated “that is fine if everyone else is doing it,” but it is not the case. Some clubs feel that success at U23 level is about winning games, not developing players.

When Butt was coming through the ranks at United, graduating as part of the famous ‘Class of 1992’ he was playing reserve football in stadiums with around 5,000 supporters, playing alongside the likes of Bryan Robson, Brian McClair, and Clayton Blackmore. That allowed players to learn from those deemed the best, who occupied places in the first team. Robson was a United captain and for a developing player, playing alongside him would have been a massive bonus and something to give the player a boost and want to be good enough to play for the first team. Butt said:

“It was open-age football in a stadium with 5,000 people watching. Flick that over to now: sometimes we go and play at a training pitch on a Tuesday afternoon with no fans and no first-team players.”

Currently, in the United first team, two players from the Academy, who could have still been playing at that level have broken through; Marcus Rashford, who is excelling after being brought through to cover an injury to Anthony Martial, scoring a brace on his UEFA Europa League debut, then again a few days later on his Premier League debut, and Scott McTominay, who was blooded in last season and has been a part of the first team under Jose Mourinho this season, playing a big role during periods of injury to midfield players.

Rashford started just two matches at U23 level before rising to the first team, McTominay played 31. Butt then came up with a fact about some of the U23 players, who know they may not make it at United, saying “if you are not around the first team at 20 or 21 you’re not going to be, it’s a fact.” These players are putting themselves into the ‘shop window’ ahead of a career away from United, with many seem to do well at. Just because it does not work at United does not mean it will never work.

Butt then spoke about Paul Pogba, a player United paid £89 million to bring back to the club from Juventus in the summer of 2016. The Academy chief suggested that Pogba may not have made it if he remained at United. Many have mocked United for letting Pogba leave on a free, with £800,000 compensation payable after the Frenchman refused to sign a new contract at the club in 2012. Butt does not see it as the error some suggest it was, saying:

“If he had stayed here and stagnated, he might never have been a footballer. There are players who go into the reserves for two or three seasons and they tread water. Pogba could have been one of those.

“When he was here, so were Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, who weren’t exactly average players. Pogba left and became probably the best midfielder in the world at Juventus. We were lucky enough to get him back here but it is a massive feather in our cap that we helped him develop.”

It just goes to show that many people are sat there waiting for Manchester United to fail. Anything they think is failure appeases them. But the thing is that nothing is failing. Just because the U23’s have been relegated to Division Two of the Premier League 2 means nothing. The Premier League 2 is not as competitive as some suggest. It is not really a league where players develop. Yes, they can play alongside, or even against, some first team players, but there is a limit of three overage outfield players and one overage goalkeeper. That is not development.

United are a club who hold youth development at the heart of the club. It is the way the club has existed for so long. Half of the players to play for the first team have come from the clubs Academy and there is an over 80-year history having at least one player from the youth setup in a matchday squad. No other club in the top-flight in England have ever come close to that. Manchester United have developed many players, most have continued to play for other clubs after leaving the club, some have been a success, others not so.

Winning the Premier League 2 and the U18 Premier League is great, but it is not essential to develop. Look at the Manchester City side who dominated at U18 level a few years ago. They have not dominated at U23 level and most have not fought their way into the first team, not that many have in all honesty. That is the opposite of player development. If you do not actually help players develop and give them opportunities at first team level, they move on to another club and could become a big mistake – but only United make those, according to some.

I am sure the U23s will have a go in Division Two of the Premier League 2 next season, it will give those promoted from U18 level a chance to adapt, rise to the challenge and see if they are able to win promotion to Division One before the end of next season. The top team will be promoted, the second and third-placed teams will play a final match to win promotion to the top flight of the Premier League 2. United, on the other hand, may decide to loan many players out next season to the lower league, where first team competition for places helps players develop.

Currently, there are ten players on loan with other clubs, some of them are doing well to establish themselves, others will benefit from the time away from the club in order to forge a career in the game, whether it is with Manchester United or not. Whilst another Class of 92 is nothing short of a dream, there will continually be players who are given the chance to train and even play in the first team, whether it is part of the pre-season tour or actual competitive matches. United will continue to develop, nurture and promote young players on the way to becoming the best they can be.

Manchester United in the verge of their first new signing ahead of the summer – reports

Manchester United are said to be ‘on the verge’ of securing the services of 19-year-old George Hirst ahead of the summer transfer window. It has been reported that United have beaten Premier League rivals to the signature of Hirst, who currently plays for Sheffield Wednesday. The 19-year-old attracted the attention of many top-flight clubs after impressing for England at youth international level.

Hurst has been impressing this season and has emerged as one of England’s top youth prospects and did help the country win the Toulon tournament in France last summer. The Mirror reported that Leicester City were seeking to sign Hirst this summer but it is United who are in pole position for the forward, which will continue the overhaul of the clubs Academy, which has worked wonders at the various youth levels under Nicky Butt over the past few years with just the U23’s needing some improvement.

Hirst, the son of Owls legend David Hirst is out of contract this summer, meaning United would not have to pay a fee for his services, just compensation based on the footballing education the player has utilised whilst at the Sheffield club. This season, Hirst has not played for the first team at Hillsborough and has so far refused to sign a new long-term contract. Owls chief Dejphon Chansiri, who was speaking about Hirst just last month, said:

“I still hope that he will sign. Let’s see what happens. I can’t make a decision. I told him he has a big chance [here].”

It could be a big blow for Sheffield Wednesday is Hirst does leave the club. I don’t think he will be a player that will be considered for the first team next season, but to play at U23 level, which will hone his skills and hopefully see an out-and-out striker play at that level, which is something that has been missing from the club at this level for a while now. James Wilson did play as the striker earlier in the season at this level.

This shows that Butt has done the right things with the Academy, sorting out the lower levels first, which in turn will benefit the higher levels. The U18’s seem to be on the cusp of winning the U18 Premier League North this season, sitting ten points clear of second-placed Liverpool at this time, although Manchester City have a few games in hand and they are the only club that could catch United.

However, if they fail to win one of those catchup matches this week, United could clinch the title with a win over their local rivals at Leigh Sports Village at noon on Saturday 14th April 2018, which really would be something to mock Manchester City for, who had the chance to clinch the Premier League title against United at the Etihad on Saturday, scoring twice in the first half and dominating, but conceding three goals in the second half, losing the match 3-2.

Ratings: Angel Gomes unable to inspire Manchester United to victory over Basel in the UEFA Youth League

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Basel in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday afternoon. The first half saw both teams have plenty of chances, only to end a draw. 14 minutes into the second half, Basel took the lead through Afimico Pululu. United, after making two changes, fell to pieces giving away a penalty on the 66th minute, which was scored by Yves Kaiser to take the Swiss side 2-0 up and cruising to victory. United got a goal back in the 70th minute from the free-kick, taken by Angel Gomes and headed into the net by Tyrell Warren.

Despite trying to get back in the game after going 2-0 down, it was not meant to be for the Red Devil’s youth. Game over – 2-1 to Basel. United were unlucky to lose in Basel and will now need to beat CSKA Moscow at Leigh Sports Village on the 5th December, hoping that Benfica can do the business against Basel, their only chance to win the group – other than that, United will get a play-off place with a victory over the Russian side.

Goals: Tyrell Warren 70′

Assists: Angel Gomes 71′

Manchester United: Fojtíček; Williams, Warren, Ercolani (Burkart 60′); O’Connor, Garner (Sang 60′), Hamilton, Tanner (Baars 71′); Gomes, Bohui, Boonen

Substitutes Not Used: Carney, Barrett, Kenyon, Galbraith

Manchester United

Alex Fojticek

Unlucky to be on the losing side today. Fojticek made plenty of saves to deny Basel, crucially a double save in the second half to stop the Swiss side from going 3-1.

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Ro-Shaun Williams

Played well throughout the game but could not stop Basel from opening the scoring, not even Fojticek could do that. The penalty was not his fault, so cannot fault him.

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Tyrell Warren

Scored the goal for United, which turned into a consolation. Played well during the match and tried to get his side level.

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Luca Ercolani

Played on the left of a back three. It was not the best game for United. Dominant in the initial ten minutes of the half but Basel took control of the game from there. United went 1-0 down before Ercolani was replaced by Nishan Burkart.

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Lee O’Connor

Played on the right when expected to start on the left. Did what he needed to do at times, could have done a little more at other times. Good respect though. Losing will help him reach his goals.

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James Garner

Played in the centre of midfield. An area United needed to play much better in. Garner did all he could do but United needs to change the formation and sim to get back into the game at 1-0 down.

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Ethan Hamilton

Played in midfield, an area that United could have been better in. Did what he needed to do at certain points, tried to get forward and create and inspire. It was not meant to be for United.

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George Tanner

Tanner was down to start in the right-wing role, but started the game on the left. He played well, at times, but was hooked with 19 minutes left after United got themselves back into the game at 2-1. Gave away the penalty which send Basel 2-0 up.

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28 Angel Gomes

Assisted Warren to get United back into the match. Unlucky with other set-pieces United won. Unable to inspire United at this level against a Swiss side who took time getting into the game, but them dominated.

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Joshua Bohui

Could not become that goalscorer against a resurgent Basel side. Created space and played well in advances areas. It took a free-kick for United to find the back of the net at 2-0 down.

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Indy Boonen

He is going to be a player that makes the headlines in the future. Impressed with his play at times. Tried to create for United. Sadly, he could not score or assist. Learning curve. United still have a chance to remain in the UEFA Youth League.

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Substitutes

Nishan Burkart

Replaced Ercolani 61'. Came on to give United more attacking depth. Unable to create anything of note against resurgent Basel side.

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Thomas Sang

Replaced Garner 61'. Gave the midfield a rise with his freshness, but Basel were 1-0 up at the time and soon to be 2-0 up. Helped his side, unfortunately they got nothing out of the game, other than experience.

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Millen Baars

Replaced Tanner 71'. A creative player and one with a good future ahead. Came on after United goat a goal back at 2-1. Unable to help his side get level.

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Report: Basel win 2-1 as Manchester United look to beating CSKA Moscow to remain in the UEFA Youth League

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Basel in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday afternoon. The first half saw both teams have plenty of chances, only to end a draw. 14 minutes into the second half, Basel took the lead through Afimico Pululu. United, after making two changes, fell to pieces giving away a penalty on the 66th minute, which was scored by Yves Kaiser to take the Swiss side 2-0 up and cruising to victory. United got a goal back in the 70th minute from the free-kick, taken by Angel Gomes and headed into the net by Tyrell Warren.

Nicky Butt started the likes of Angel Gomes, Indy Boonen, Lee O’Connor, Ro-Shaun Williams and Josh Bohui in this must-win UEFA Youth League match. As Benfica were beaten earlier in the day bt CSKA Moscow, United will win the group if they take all three points in this fixture. United had a good start to the match with Tyrell Warren fouled by Daniele Vesco which resulted in a free-kick for United and Vesco coming off injured with Atdhe Rashiti replacing him.

In the eighth minute, Gomes had a shot from outside the box, the Basel keeper pushing the effort wide, with United winning a corner. Basel had a chance to take the lead in the 15th minute through Rashiti, which was wide of the target after Alex Fojtíček forced the effort wide, Basel winning a corner – which came to nothing. United were aiming to take control of the game but getting nowhere around the halfway point of the first half. United had been creative, just not finding what was needed to take the lead. Basel also had chances to open the scoring, failing to do so.

Basel seemed to be a lot better than they were in the opening ten minute of the match, which could have been the chance for United to break. In the 30th minute of the match, Basel won a corner, a chance to pressure United. The corner saw Basel threaten United, despite being outside of the penalty area with a Basel player heading over the crossbar, which was lucky for United. Basel were on top at this stage of the game, creating chances and pressuring United at the back.

However, the score was still level with around thirteen minutes of the half remaining, plus stoppage time for the earlier incident in the match. Gezim Pepsi was shown the yellow card in the 34th minute of the match for a foul on James Garner, who had won the ball with United awarded a free-kick in the Basel half with Williams taking it, Indy Boonen at the near post and the Basel keeper taking possession of the ball. United had a chance to take the lead coming to the end of the first half through Hamilton, whose effort was off target.

Gomes gave away a free-kick in the 45th minute of the match, which was taken by Dejan Žunić but unable to pressure United into conceding the opening goal of the game. United had chances in the half through Gomes and Hamilton, unable to take the lead themselves. The match went into the break 0-0 with all to play for in the second half. Nicky Butt may be seeking a tactical change with Nishan Burkart and Millen Baars on the bench, both able to turn on the class for their club.

There were no changes for either side at the start of the second half. Within three minutes Basel had another chance with Noah Okafor having a shot on goal with Fojtíček making the save. United were on the attack with Basel taking possession and turning the screw on the visiting side – aiming to take the advantage in the match. Basel, after a period of dominance and plenty of chances, took the lead in the 59th minute of the match through Afimico Pululu with Fojtíček not having a chance to make the save.

Nicky Butt then made two changes for United in the 60th minute with Luca Ercolani being replaced by Nishan Burkart and James Garner coming off for Thomas Sang. United were now playing a back four formation, which may be better for the side as they look to find the equaliser as a win in this match will secure United as the group winners. It was more doom and gloom for United as Basel were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute of the match after Pululu was fouled. Yves Kaiser put his side 2-0 up from the spot with United having an uphill challenge to deal with now.

United got a goal back in the 70th minute of the match through Tyrell Warren after being awarded a free-kick, taken by Gomes, with Warren rising for the ball and beating the keeper. Butt made his third change after the goal with Tanner being replaced by Millen Baars. Fojtíček kept United in the game after their goal, making a double save to deny Basel from scoring again. United needed to get stuck in and find that second goal to level the game in the remaining 18 minutes of the match. Okafor was booked in the 76th minute for a tug of the shirt – free-kick to United.

Gomes took the free-kick, missing the target with the Basel keeper making a diving effort, seemingly not confident the ball was going too wide of the target. United had a good period of possession, getting deep in the Basel half and aiming to score the equaliser, which the Basel keeper thwarted by making the save. Basel then won a throw-in after Gomes took the ball out of play at a time where United were getting forward a lot of the time.

United were under pressure in the 82nd minute and Fojtíček came off his line, cutting out a shot with United getting back to their defensive position. Pululu was shown a yellow card for simulation, diving in the box, seemingly trying to win a second penalty of the match. United not having it though. Basel made their second change in the 83rd minute with Nicola Suter replacing Okafor. In the 87th minute, Warren was booked for a foul on Suter, then a minute later, Suter was booked for a foul on Burkart. In the 89th minute, Hamilton missed a chance to level the score for United.

Game over. 2-1 to Basel. United were unlucky to lose in Basel and will now need to beat CSKA Moscow at Leigh Sports Village on the 5th December, hoping that Benfica can do the business against Basel, their only chance to win the group – other than that, United will get a play-off place with a victory over the Russian side.

Goals: Tyrell Warren 70′

Assists: Angel Gomes 71′

Manchester United: Fojtíček; Williams, Warren, Ercolani (Burkart 60′); O’Connor, Garner (Sang 60′), Hamilton, Tanner (Baars 71′); Gomes, Bohui, Boonen

Substitutes Not Used: Carney, Barrett, Kenyon, Galbraith

Confirmed Starting XI: Angel Gomes let loose on Basel in the UEFA Youth League

Manchester United U19’s face Basel U19’s in the UEFA Youth League this afternoon, KO 15:00 GMT. United top the group with eight points after four matches played with Nicky Bitt’s side seeking a victory to put them in good stead to reach the knockout stages of the tournament. Basel sit in second place in the group with seven points with Benfica in third place with six points, having played five matches.

Angel Gomes returns to the U19’s starting XI after winning the FIFA U17 World Cup with England last month. The 17-year-old played for United U18’s at the weekend, helping to beat Blackburn Rovers 4-1, scoring a brace in the victory. Butt has also selected Alex Fojtíček, Lee O’Connor, Luka Ercolani, Tyrell Warren, Ro-Shaun Williams,  George Tanner, James Garner, Ethan Hamilton, Angel Gomes, Indy Boonen, and Josh Bohui.

Manchester United:

Fojtíček;

Williams, Warren, Ercolani;

O’Connor, Garner, Hamilton, Tanner;

Gomes;

Bohui, Boonen

Substitutes:

Carney, Barrett, Kenyon, Galbraith, Sang, Baars, Burkart

Butt has selected seven substitutes including Jacob Carney, Jake Barrett, Jake Kenyon, Ethan Galbraith, Thomas Sang, Millen Baars and Nishan Burkhart. A win for United will put them in with a great chance of winning the group with one match left in the competition, at group stage this season, CSKA Moscow at home, which will be played in just under a fortnight’s time at Leigh Sports Village.

copyright: JW