Manchester United are renowned for their superb academy.
For years the club have boasted one of the finest youth set-ups in the world and in 2019, United clocked up their 4000th consecutive first-team game in which at least one academy graduate was present in the matchday squad (which would explain why Cameron Borthwick-Jackson saw so much game time under Louis van Gaal).
There’s a lot of excitement around the club about the latest crop of academy graduates, however, there seems to be a distinct lack of English talent coming through the ranks – something which was highlighted during the England U21 side’s recent outing against the Czech Republic.
Now, my one caveat to this entire article is that Mason Greenwood would have been included in Lee Carsley’s side had he not proved himself capable of challenging for a place in the senior team in recent years, but United boasting just one player in the England U21 matchday squad is not a sign of a team who have a proud tradition of developing some of England’s top talents.
James Garner was the only United player present and was an unused substitute, while Angel Gomes – who left the club in 2020 – was also named in the squad. When you look at the other names involved, it’s clear that United are struggling to develop young, English talent.
Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Cole Palmer and Tommy Doyle all represented Manchester City in the side while a number of prospects from Chelsea’s famed Cobham academy were also named on the team sheet.
Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Leeds and Norwich also had players representing the Young Lions, showing that United perhaps need to rethink how they nurture their youngest talents.
It was also telling that the only United academy player who graced the field on Thursday night was Czech Republic goalkeeper Matej Kovar. The 21-year-old was beaten three times as Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun and a brace from Everton’s Anthony Gordon secured the three points for England.
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United have loaned a number of their players out to Championship sides this season, with Garner, Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong all securing moves to the second tier, and I think this is a positive shift in their development and a good move from the club.
Laird’s performances mean he’s likely to be considered for a place in the U21 squad in the future, as it seems Carsley is keen to take first-team experience into account when choosing his squads.
Overall, the academy, much like United’s senior side, need to take a step into the future. The loan system should be used to further the players’ development before they return to fight for their place in the team, otherwise United could be in danger of falling even further behind the Premier League’s top sides.
Which academy player do you think needs to go out on loan? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter and get involved in the discussion in the comment section below.