After a season full of ups and downs, Manchester United U23s are now looking forward to the new campaign. A finish in eighth place was not near good enough, but considering the situation throughout the season, players developed, and new faces were promoted by the end of it…
With the injuries in the heart of the defence, United had to opt for a makeshift back four as Galbraith played at centre-back. This left free spaces in the middle of the park which were covered by the U18s captain Svidersky and by the end of the season Charlie Savage was also given a chance.
It is expected that many from the U18s will eventually make the switch to the Reserves this season, with the transition being slow due to the inexperience and the difficult fixtures the U18s have at the beginning of the new season. Clearly, the Reserves have their own difficulties as they face Leicester U23s in the opening day, they travel to London for their second game before being hosts of the second derby in less than a month at youth level. The U18s play City in the opening weekend of the Premier League North.
There have been departures from the Reserves as Ethan Galbraith was confirmed at Doncaster Rovers in a season long loan, as was Di’Shon Bernard at Hull City. Full-back Reece Devine moved on loan at St. Johnstone while Charlie McCann and Mark Helm left permanently at Rangers FC Reserves and Burnley U23s respectively. Max Taylor after a successful trial joined Rochdale permanently, however United Reserves captain Will Fish was loaned to Stockport.
This summer Arnau Puigmal, after being in the released list at the end of the season, joined former Red Largie Ramazani at Almeria. Jacob Carney left at Sunderland while Aliou Traore, on loan at Caen last season was in the released list as well.
United are yet to decide whether Anthony Elanga will leave on loan this season due to his excellent performances in the pre-season, a player considered way too good for Premier League 2 football. Teden Mengi is also considering a loan move back at Derby County, while Rooney also would prefer a deal with James Garner as well. The young midfielder has been centre of transfer news lately, with him reportedly rejecting a contract renewal. This was mentioned in the latest Stretty Newsletter. The reports were claimed as ‘news’ to senior sources.
The future seems exciting in terms of new additions for the Reserves. After a brilliant season with the U18s, numerous of talented youngsters will potentially be promoted at U23s level. They have already participated in the friendlies the U23s have had during pre-season. McNeill, Savage, Iqbal, Forson, Mejia all will be involved. Dillon Hoogewerf will finally have the opportunity to shine while the Hugill and McNeill partnership certainly promises for a brilliant show. D’Mani Mellor who was absent due to injury during last season, has signed a new contract as announced by the club. They also confirmed the Professional Development Phase player on Friday.
United announced the signing of Paul McShane in the player-coach position as he would help the team in the defence, a department struggling with injuries as we saw last season. Considering the first fixtures United have a lot to think of and work on, but with the news that coach Neil Ryan was promoted to the U23s to work alongside Neil Wood is of great help for the players that will make the transition from other levels. Uncertain remains the situation of the ‘seniors’ of this side as Levitt and Kovar may head on loan again.
Despite the exciting and talented names of those coming in and the names already playing at this level like Shoretire and Hannibal, a prediction on the outcome of this season would be out of place right now. Balance, improvement and building the environment for a safe development are the main goals at a team like United especially at academy football. Focus is extremely important, and these players have the upcoming season to make it count. They have all seen how United want the best from their academy graduates and the frequent appearances at matchday of new players only means that the manager trusts the process of developing talent within the club.
The U23s kick their season off on Sunday against Leicester City where they will meet former academy player Iestyn Hughes. Last season, games against Leicester City were quite tricky and nervy; United will be looking forward to not making the same mistakes over again.