Welcome to the inaugural post of the “Carrington Chronicles”, which is a parallel series to my Man Utd – Director’s Cut series. Here I will focus on the talent development part of the save, closely following the Academy players and the attempt to recreate the “Class of 92”.
The series gets it name from the state-of-the-art Man Utd Academy training centre that opened in 2002, now named Aon Training Complex, but often called Carrington, due to its location near the village of Carrington, Greater Manchester.
The aim for my main series is of course to make Roy Keane as successful as Sir Alex Ferguson, winning multiple trophies and reinstating Manchester United as the best club in England, Europe and the entire world. Another aim that caters to my love of FM youth development, is as stated above, to recreate the “Class of 92”. If you are not familiar with the “Class of 92”, here’s a short recap.
“A […] wave of young players emerged at Manchester United in the early to mid-1990s. This group proved worthier than the previous generation in comparisons with the Busby Babes in terms of the success they achieved as relatively young footballers. Each one was developed by Manchester United from a very early age, some signing schoolboy forms with the club at the age of just 14. Many of these players were part of the Manchester United team that won the 1992 FA Youth Cup, including future United regulars David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. Also generally considered in this group are players such as Paul Scholes, an FA Youth Cup finalist in 1993 and Phil Neville – Gary’s younger brother – who was a substitute in the 1993 FA Youth Cup Final and captained the team to the 1995 FA Youth Cup. The six players have since been collectively referred to as the “Class of ’92”, a term popularised by the namesake 2013 documentary focusing on their careers with the club.”-Wikipedia article on “Fergie’s Fledglings”
So, four players from the 1992 FA Youth Cup winning team and two players from the year after made it all the way to regular status in the first team squad and made enough impact to reach at least “Favoured Personnel” status on FM20. A truly remarkable feat that I would really like to try and see if I can recreat. To achieve this recreation of a “golden generation” the following must happen:
- The Man Utd U18s winning the FA Youth Cup AND
- SIX or more players from the cup winning team AND/OR next year’s team must reach at least “Favoured Personnel” status at Manchester United.
I realize that this aim is nearly impossible, but it’ll give the normal “let’s just develop players good enough for the senior team” sort of youth thinking a bit of a twist. It won’t be good enough to simply produce an occasional player that makes it all the way. I want to produce an entire generation!
To achieve this three things will be pivotal:
- State of the art youth facilities
- Great staff
- Good youth players
What’s the current state of the Academy?
At the start of the 2019/20 season the first prerequisite is already met. The facilities at Carrington can’t get any better.
There is nothing that needs improvement, which gives us us an opportunity to focus on staff and squad. Before we get there though, let’s look at the youth development plan.
Youth development the Man Utd Way
As you know by now, Roy Keane is a sucker for mental and physical strength. That’s not all though. He also wants his players to be able to play a bit of football. The “Triple Triangle Philosophy” focuses heavily on winning the ball and quickly transitioning from defense to attack.
The most important skills for this type of football to be effective are called “Core Skills”. They are hard to train and develop, just like the case with Personality types. Therefore Roy Keane and his Academy staff will primarily search for players with one of the listed personality types and high values in Bravery, Determination and Teamwork.
Finding players using the filter above provides the Academy with good building blocks to be molded into fitting the “Triple Triangle Philosophy”. Players with both decent personalities and core skills from the get-go. In my Man Utd save the U18s squad will be treated as an actual squad, not an infinite talent pool of wonderkids and therefore I will not stock-pile talented youngsters. There will be a maximum of 22 players in the U18s squad at any time with the number of players in the U23s squad kept to an absolute minimum, to ensure that all Academy players get enough playing time to develop properly.
There will be also be an even distribution between “first year” players aged 16-17 and “second year” players aged 17-18. This is an attempt to field a team strong enough to fight for the FA Youth Cup, while at the same time ensuring a steady flow of Academy graduates to the first team squad.
During the years in the Academy focus will mainly be on developing the core skills and work on physical and position-specific weaknesses. With position-specific I mean Heading/Marking/Tackling for centre-backs, Passing/Technique for central midfielders, Dribbling/Crossing for wingers etc.
Are you getting it? No? Let’s use new Academy signing Max Normann Williamsen as an example!
His core skills are Bravery 16, Determination 18 and Teamwork 10. That’s more than good enough. His physical skills need a lot of improvement though. With a 9 in Strength this is where we’ll start. By putting him on the “Strength” additional training focus we’ll address both this weakness and hopefully improve his already good Jumping Reach of 14 even further in the process. Secondly he’ll work on the “Agility and Balance” training focus until both of these skills reach at least a 10. After this it becomes somewhat of a crossroad. Position-specific skills or more physical training? Most of his position-specific skills will be improved through his positional training as a centre-back, which make them less of an urgency to focus on. Instead he’ll probably do a bit of “Quickness” training, focusing on Acceleration and Pace. By following this process he will hopefully be prepared for senior football when the time comes.
When a player reaches the age of 19 U18 football is no longer an option and the club offers three different options, depending on if the player is good enough for the first team squad or not and what sort of potential he shows. The first two options are easy to explain. If he’s deemed not good enough to get promoted into the first team squad and also lack potential, he’ll simply be sold or released. A player yet not good enough but with decent potential will be sent away on loan. The philosophy behind loaning players out is simple. It’s all about finding the player plenty of playing time at a level as high as possible. The third scenario, involving the brightest shining gems coming out of the Academy, needs a bit of explanation. We’ll start by looking at the composition of the first team squad.
The first team squad will be divided into three “Triangle groups”; a red grouo with centre-backs and wing-backs, a yellow group with central midfielders and a green group with wingers and attackers.
The groups will have one “Group leader” each; a high status player with a “top personality” (Model Citizen, Model Professional, Perfectionist or Resolute). His personality together with his high status in the team makes him the perfect mentor and this is his primary role; to help develop the younger players in the team. His own development is secondary, and he has most likely reached the age where training is more about maintaining abilities than developing them. For example, Mario Mandzukic is the natural group leader for the green triangle group.
The main part of each triangle group will be made up of “Regulars”; the players starting most of the games and their back-ups. These players are aged 30 at most and will in training focus on gaining favourable traits and strengthen position-specific strengths even further.
This leaves us with the “Talents”, players aged between 19 and 21 with both enough ability and potential to be promoted from the Academy into the first team squad. They will continue working on the same things as they did as 2nd year Academy players; their position-specific weaknesses. They will also be part of a mentoring group, with the aim of improving their mental skills and personalities. Their playing time will mostly be gained in early rounds of domestic cups, U23 games and as a replacement for injured Regulars. When a player in this group is good enough to become a Regular, he will be promoted regardless of age and a new Talent will take his place in that group. If a Talent reaches the age of 22 without making it to Regular status he will be off-loaded to make room for a new talent. This approach will hopefully make the club self-sufficient when it comes to talents and will hopefully make for a natural pathway from Academy to senior squad.
The Academy Staff
Sadly the staff didn’t match the high standard of the facilities at all. Therefore a bit of a rebuild was done here as well. The focus was on bringing in coaching staff with good personalities as well as high values in Working with Youngsters and the final result was actually more than decent!
Above you see the manager, ass man and coaches for the U18s and U23s respectively. I have high expectations that these eight men will help develop the future of Man Utd. It’s also nice to see a bit of Man Utd legacy in Evra and van Nistelrooij!
That’ll be all for now. In the next episode I’ll go through the actual squad, highlight a couple of players that look exciting and maybe even show you the first intake if we get that far. I hope you enjoyed this episode enough to join me on this exciting quest!