Welcome back for another episode of Carrington Chronicles, where we follow the Man Utd Academy in an attempt to recreate the “Class of 1992”.
Last season the Man Utd U18s won the quadruple, which was an amazing feat, but an even bigger/more important achievement was the FA Youth Cup title, since it marks the beginning of our “Class of 2021” challenge, where we’ll try to guide as many as possible of the players from the title winning team to at least “Favoured personnel” status at Man Utd. Several players were also promoted to the first team squad along the lines of the newly adopted “Sink or swim” strategy. This meant that a lot of players needed to be brought in, both in order to keep the team competitive and to keep the stream of potential players to fill the first team with flowing.
The new Academy players
Even though Man Utd heavily rely on their slightly immoral recruiting strategy, the original youth intake is still special. A player coming through this intake has the potential to become something special in the eyes of the supporters. A player from your own part of town always holds a special place in your heart! This year the original Man Utd youth intake produced two players with one standout talent. Dean Woods was even touted as the possible star of his generation.
With a Driven personality, an Aggression of 15 and a Determination of 20 Dean Woods certainly seems to fit the Man Utd mold. He is a great dribbler (16) with good Finishing (12), so we’ll probably see him score a lot for the U18s right from the start. He’ll need plenty of work all around, but that’s exactly what an academy is for, isn’t it? With a PA of 5 stars he has an exciting future ahead of him, and may very well become a first team player if he develops nicely.
Owen Lindsay was the other player coming through the Man Utd intake. He looks like a fairly unexciting wing-back, but offers enough potential to at least get a chance. Luckily for him, he operates on the right side. If he’d been a left wing-back he wouldn’t have stood a chance, considering the competition.
To compensate for the lack of players coming through the Man Utd youth intake HoYD Kristjaan Speakman and his merry band of scouts toured all over the country in their white mini van, searching for players to sign.
Nine “bulk players” came in this way, players that look less than exciting, but were still good enough to earn a spot in the U18 squad. They were identified at different youth intake days throughout England, primarily because of strong mental skills, fitting the “Man Utd mold”.
Maybe one of them will surprise everyone by making it all the way to the first team? At the moment that seems unlikely, but with the right nurturing and development you never know!
Two players came in with higher expectations on them, though.
Kai Williams is a Determined (16) lad, with a sense of goal and decent physicals. That is a good start for an attacker. He also comes with heaps of potential, which is why he is surrounded by high expectations. Could he be the next star striker? He’ll have to fight local boy Dean Woods for a spot on the team, first of all!
Sajmir Kasa is the top prospect of the bunch. Travelling all the way from Kosovo to participate in the Chelsea intake day he suprised everyone with his “take no prisoners” attitude. His father told everyone that would listen, through his interpreter Igor, that Sajmir had been born with the ball at his feet and a will that no-one could bend. This sounded like music to Speakman, who lured father, son and interpreter into the van and rushed them to Carrington!
The final squad for the upcoming season was a mix of new first-year players and at least a few second-years, who had been parts of the quadruple winning squad from last season.
The goalkeeping position has been a problem all along, and this season was no exception. Adam Reynolds joins Marc McGuinness in what looks like a decent but highly unexciting goalkeeping duo. The back four lost a couple of players that graduated the Academy and didn’t manage to replace them properly, which means that depth isn’t really there either. Higher up the pitch things look better though. Newcomers Woods and Williams will form a dynamic attacking duo and behind them both Naessens–Mestdagh and Kasa look promising. Most promising of them all is Carlos Alves, though.
With a potential that seems almost endless he has caught the eyes if fans, pundits and scouts alike. With both Passing and decision-making of international standard he looks like a potential midfield general for many years to come, even though the media has nicknamed him “The Portuguese Prince”. He will remain in the U18s for yet another season though, hopefully continuing his development, mainly because of the fierce competition in central midfield in the first team squad. He looks like a star in the making though, and hopefully we’ll hear a lot from him in the future!
So, what kind of results has this squad managed to produce so far? Have they managed to live up to the high expectations that comes with the results from last season or are we seeing a quadruple hangover?
First half of the 2022/23 season
Well, to call the season so far exciting is a slight exaggeration. The team still doesn’t know what it feels like to lose, halfway through the season.
Unbeaten both domestically and in Europe, many of the wins have been taken in more than convincing fashion. Six wins and a 42-0 goal difference in the U19 Champions League is quite significant for the season so far. So, things are not exactly exciting results wise at the moment, but who cares? It’s now more about producing players for the first team and creating future club legends, isn’t it? In the next episode we’ll see if the U18s managed to replicate the quadruple success from last season and more importantly, if any of the players are turning into superstars! We’ll also look at how last season’s Academy graduates did in the first team. Any Man Utd icons in the making? Read the next episode to find out!