FA Youth Cup Profiles for Manchester United!…
May 11th, 2022 | Football
I’ve always been a massive fan not just of Manchester United, but of the various youth teams as well! So I’m absolutely buzzing that the U18 lads have managed to make it all the way to the FA Youth Cup Final, to be played at Old Trafford on Wednesday the 11th of May…
I’ve watched the young devils in every round and have watched them a lot in their league games as well. So with all that in mind, I’ve decided to write some short player profiles on the players involved for the Red Devils this Wednesday for those who don’t know as much about them. I’ll start with the likely Starting XI, before discussing the other lads that will likely be involved from the bench.
Radek Vitek (GK):
A modern goalkeeper. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, good of his line, good distribution when going long. Intimidating in stature and extremely vocal. Never really makes mistakes, extremely reliable throughout this competition.
Sam Murray (LB):
A classic left-back. Bags of energy and tenacity. Works his socks off going forwards and defensively. Good crosser of the ball and comfortable with it in other situations as well. Has also played as a right-back in some league outings this season, despite being left-footed.
Rhys Bennet (CB):
The team’s captain. A leader. Has played for the U18s, U19s and U23s this season. I’ve never seen a bad performance from this lad and can’t think of a time he’s lost an aerial duel. Dominant in the air, comfortable on the ball, commands and leads the defence well. Happy to get stuck into challenges, but he also can defend space and read the game well. A reliable force at the back.
Tyler Fredricson (CB):
Didn’t start the first two rounds of the tournament, but has since been undroppable. Comfortable on the ball, doesn’t mind defending out-wide when covering his full-back. Seems to have a good understanding with Bennet. Another solid performer who never seems to let the team down.
Marc Jurado (RB):
The Spaniard was signed by United from Barcelona two years ago and has been solid ever since. Jurado has a lot of the qualities needed to be a top full-back. He’s a threat going forwards with his crossing and link-up play, all whilst remaining excellent defensively. Jurado is an all round footballer, which is important in full-backs nowadays. I believe, in the modern game, full-backs are more important than ever and at the top level should have the ability in terms of passing and quality seen in central midfielders. Jurado is also extremely intelligent in terms of positioning. His all round ability and football intelligence is further showcased by the fact the manager has trusted him at right-back, right-wing-back, centre-midfield and centre-back in a back-three and a back-four, and has also featured for the U19s and U23s. Jurado has bags of energy, is an excellent crosser of the ball, is versatile and a leader. A vital part of the United U18s side.
Kobbie Mainoo (CM):
What a talent this lad is. I never like putting pressure on youth players, but Mainoo could reach any level he wants. Having only just turned seventeen, Mainoo has often been the youngest player in the United team in the tournament this season, being only sixteen years old in the other games. He’s played most of his football for the U18s, but has also featured for the U19s in the UEFA Youth League and the U23s. His ability on the ball is unbelievable. His first-touch is immaculate, he can dribble his way out of tight spaces when it seems all but impossible. His passing range is good, his movement off the ball is good when his team have possession. He’s a threat offensively, whilst remaining solid defensively. He’s agile, strong, a brilliant carrier of the ball. When Mainoo decides to go on one of his driving runs through midfield, you’re not stopping him. Along with Alejandro Garnacho, who we’ll talk about later, this lad is a match winner. When a game is drifting, even or if things simply aren’t going the Red Devils’ way, Mainoo just takes the game by the scruff of it’s neck and makes something happen. He can pass, shoot, tackle, score goals with his head or feet. There aren’t many players I’m genuinely excited by every time they touch the ball, but this lad is an exception to that. He can win games on his own, posses great energy and strength. If I had to compare him to anyone in terms of playing style, I’d probably say Paul Pogba, but I believe Mainoo could be better. I never see an average performance from him. If Mainoo keeps his head down, keeps working hard, listening to his coaches and those who matter around him, then he could make it to the very top.
Daniel Gore (CM):
Tidy is the word I’d use to describe Daniel Gore. A playmaker from deep. Similarly to Mainoo, he can get out of tight areas with ease and is a progressive passer. He’s a leader, loves defending and getting forwards. Gore is probably the most underrated player, with Rhys Bennet, in this side. He’s featured at times for the U19s and U23s this season and has never looked out of place. He fights for every ball, never pulls out of a tackle and, like Mainoo, is just an excellent watch. I’m yet to see Mainoo and Gore lose a midfield battle and if the Red Devils can win the final on Wednesday, you’d imagine it would be largely down to them.
Alejandro Garnacho (LW/RW/ST):
With Mainoo, probably the most exciting player to watch at these games. It says everything about the lad’s talent when he’s played for United’s U18s, U19s, U23s and has now had a taste of the senior team with a debut from the bench against Chelsea. Having previously only represented Spain at youth international level, he received a senior Argentina call-up, receiving the call-up prior to not even training with the Manchester Untied first-team. Garnacho didn’t get any minutes for Argentina, but got to train with Lionel Messi and co; meaning Garnacho has trained with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo this season, not bad for a seventeen-year-old. In terms of him as a player, Garnacho possess the attributes needed to make it at the top level. He possesses electrifying pace and likes to have a run at his opponents. He’s constantly making brilliant runs in behind, often between the full-back and centre-back, often receiving the ball in an inside-forward position. He seems to find space well in and around the box, which his down to his movement, which is already really good and can only improve with age. He’s calm in the box, often taking his time to weigh up a decision, but will usually end up pulling the trigger and scoring a goal. In one-on-one situations against the goalkeeper, he always seems to make the right decision in terms of the kind of finish required to score the goal. As well as all this he is also a very good free-kick tacker, scoring two in this season’s tournament. Garnacho is an absolute match winner, clearly too good for this level, and I’m excited to see him undoubtedly turn up and play well in the final. Like Kobbie Mainoo, if he keeps working hard and listens to the right people, he can go right to the very top.
Isak Hansen-Aaroen (CAM/CM):
Intricate. The classy Norwegian is easy on the eye. He likes to occupy space, which he finds really well with movement. He likes to keep his passing simple, but he’s not negative with it. He’ll always pass with the idea of creating something. United in this tournament have often set up in a 4-2-3-1, with Hansen-Aaroen operating as the no.10 with, in the last few rounds, a midfield two of Kobbie Mainoo and Daniel Gore behind him. The no.10 role suits Hansen-Aaroen as it gives him licence to room and invade space, but longer-term I could see him playing more as a no.8 in a 4-3-3 or as one of a midfield two. He’s skilful, positive and a good watch. Will be interesting to see if he does keep his starting place for the final, with other players in his position performing well of late in league games.
Sam Mather (RW/LW/CAM):
The assist king. Sam Mather is known for his creativity in the final-third. He links up well with teammates and is a classic wide player, but is also capable of playing in the no.10 role. He has an impressive twelves assists across all competitions this season, but he also has an eye for goal, shown best in this competition. Mather has chipped in at vital times in the matches, scoring the opener against Scunthorpe, the second against Reading, and a vital third to put his side 3-1 up against Everton and give the Red Devils some breathing room, eventually winning 4-1. He’s a good solid performer, capable of crossing, shooting, linking up with teammates and is capable of delivering a good set-piece delivery. He has good movement in and around the box, scoring all of his FA Youth Cup goals inside the area this season, with all the goals being. Mather gives this side balance on the right, and enjoys interchanging with his teammates in the final-third. A vital cog in this team and surely a guaranteed starter.
Charlie McNeill (ST):
The man who leads the line. McNeill is a hardworking all-round striker. He possess good finishing, good movement and links up well with teammates. An part of McNeill’s game I like is the way he isn’t one dimensional. In games he will mix up his play, leaving the opposition backline and midfield unsure about his whereabouts and what they should do to counteract it. McNeill makes runs in behind different areas of the opposition’s back-four. he makes runs from inside from wider positions, runs in behind the centre-backs, in behind the space between the full-back and centre-back, just constantly mixing it up. McNeill can also drop deep, hold the ball up and link up with teammates. He’s got good vision and if he sees a teammate in a better position, or making a run in behind when he’s dropped deeper, then he can find him. A consistent performer throughout the FA Youth Cup campaign, who will be hoping he can start despite recent injury issues (he’s been back for a few games and looks sharp, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t start when he’s started all the other rounds).
Tom Wooster (GK):
A good goalkeeper, solid back-up. Has performed well in the other games he’s featured in. Has good distribution, calm under pressure. A good and reliable back-up if Radek Vitek were to get injured.
Eric Hanbury (GK):
Another solid goalkeeper. Hanbury has done well for the U18s when called upon. He’s a solid option, but isn’t likely to feature in the Starting XI or bench or the final. But he can be trusted if called upon.
Willy Kambwala (CB/RB):
The solid Frenchman. Kambwala is a centre-back, but is also capable of playing right-back. A unit at the back, Kambwala is physically dominant against most attackers in this age group. A bit of a throwback defender, as when you watch him you can see he loves defending. Kambwala goes into every tackle with desire and commitment. A good option from the bench who is capable of stepping in if injuries occur to centre-backs Rhys Bennet and Tyler Fredricson or right-back Marc Jurado.
Louie Jackson (CB):
Louie Jackson is another centre-back. Jackson played in the United’s first two games in this tournament, and didn’t really put a foot wrong. He’s since not got any minutes in this tournament, and may not even make the bench for the final. But he’s a good player. Jackson is calm in possession, has good positional awareness for someone so young (16 years old) and still has another campaign or two in this tournament.
Sonny Aljofree (CB):
A leader. Good character. Aljofree is a modern centre-back. He likes to carry the ball out of defence, isn’t afraid to take possession in potentially dangerous areas. Is a good passer of the ball. He can thread passes through, or hit a long ball if required. Can hit a nice diagonal from centre-back to a wider position. Has done well when called upon in this tournament. U18s Manager Travis Binion often switches to a back-three to see out games, Aljofree has been the centre-back called from the bench to make the system change. Again, more than capable of filling in if injuries occur.
Logan Pye (LB):
I like Logan Pye. He’s a good all round left-back who is a solid 7/10 both defensively and offensively. Has a good cross on him, is strong, could probably play midfield or centre-back if required. Good passer. Started against Everton in this competition, but hasn’t started since. If something were to happen to Sam Murray, there isn’t a drop off if Pye has to come into the side.
Habeeb Ogunneye (RB):
A good right-back. Hard-working, get’s up and down the touchline. Solid defensively, and is comfortable going forwards. Very young and still has lots of development left in him. Probably unlikely to make the bench for the final, but is a good and capable right-back.
Marcus Lawrence (RB):
A good option. Marcus Lawrence never seems to put a foot wrong when he plays. Good on the ball, likes a tackle. Again, probably unlikely to make the bench for the final, but a good player with a bright future.
Maxi Oyedele (CDM/CM/RB):
Probably one of the first subs looked to in any situation in the game. Oyedele can play in defence, as a full-back, however he mainly operates in midfield. Oyedele started the first two rounds, partnered with Kobbie Mainoo in that midfield two in United’s 4-2-3-1 system. However he has since seen Daniel Gore take his place in that two. But Oyedele has still performed in the other games he’s played, since making his youth international debut for Poland. He’s also still getting plenty of FA Youth Cup minutes from the bench. U18s manager Travis Binnion and his coaches have excellent in game management, making the necessary adjustments when required. So the change we often see, in these Youth Cup games, is Oyedele introduced for no.10 Isaak Hansen-Aaroen. This usually involves Kobbie Mainoo getting pushed forwards into the no.10 role, with Oyedele partnering Gore in the deeper midfield two. However we’ve also seen the manager switch to a slightly more fluent and interchanging midfield three in a 4-3-3 system, with a sitter and two eights. Oyedele reads the game well, is full of energy and has the tricks and flicks to get out of tight areas. However I believe his best attribute is his tackling and ability to “break up the play”. Oyedele goes into every challenge like it’s his last, but isn’t reckless. He’s brilliant at it, and seems to always get the ball. He’s also shown he’s got a good strike on him, netting against Scunthorpe from outside the box in the 4-2 win at Old Trafford. He’d be horrible to play against, so he’s a great option either from the start, or the bench for United come Wednesday night!
Ethan Ennis (LW/RW):
Ennis made a very controversial move last summer, swapping the red of Merseyside for the red of Manchester. Outstanding for Liverpool, United signed Ennis. A wide player with pace, good link-up play and a good shot on him. Calm and composed in the final-third, often making the right decision as whether to pass or shoot. Ennis has scored some nice one-on-ones, but a lot of his goals are stunners from range, or curlers from cutting inside from out-wide. He struggled in the first half of the season, both for minutes and delivering on the pitch, but second-half of the season he’s been brilliant in the U18s league, getting plenty of goals and chipping in with assists. Likely to start on the bench for the final, but he’s definitely a game changer.
Omari Forson (LW/RW/CAM/CM):
Omari Forson has always been highly rated. He’s already played for the U23s in the past. But injuries have made this season a tough one for the lad, but he’s since got back fit, back in the team in league games and has been a bright spark. With his wand of a left-foot, Forson often catches the eye. He’s extremely composed, versatile and is very much capable of unlocking a defence. He can cross, shoot and pass. I’m excited he’s fit now and hope he makes the bench for the final as, like Ethan Ennis, he’s a real game changer.
Manni Norkett (ST/RW/LW):
Prolific striker. Has been brilliant when called upon this season. Good, clean finisher. Possess great pace, movement and is a hard working lad who can lead the line, or play out-wide. A good honest striker, who can definitely make an impact, you’d imagine possibly from the bench. Likely to be involved.
Joe Hugill (ST):
Clinical. That’s the word that comes to my mind when I think about Joe Hugill. Signed from Sunderland at the beginning of last season, Hugill enjoyed a brilliant 21/22 campaign for the Red Devils. Hugill couldn’t stop scoring for the U18s, earning promotion to the U23s, were he remained prolific, memorably netting a hattrick against arch rivals Liverpool away from home. His impressive displays got him name checked by then Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and was included in the senior team’s pre-season games, making his unofficial debut against Derby County, and getting a cameo against Queens Park Rangers. Hugill found the first-half of the season somewhat difficult, mixing between age groups. Too good for the U18s, but not getting the chances he would’ve liked with the U23s. But this second-half of the season, Hugill has been back to his goalscoring best. The striker stepped in when Charlie McNeill suffered an injury and has since seemed to take every chance he gets. McNeill and Hugill are quite similar in terms of the fact they can both drop deeper and link-up with teammates. However, Hugill is slightly different to McNeill in terms of his finishing. McNeill scores a lot of good finishes and can score the odd scrappy goal, but Hugill, I believe, is that more instinctive, penalty box striker who can get those scrappy goals. That’s not to say McNeill can’t do that, because he can, I just feel Hugill has that bit more sharpness, movement and sense of danger in and around the six-yard box, but Hugill isn’t just a penalty box striker. As I’ve said, he links up well with teammates and is a good passer of the ball, but it’s just another attribute to mention. I personally believe Charlie McNeill deserves to start the final, as his contribution throughout the tournament has been exceptional. He’s also looked sharp and has scored a few goals since returning from his injury. McNeill knows his teammates really well and links up brilliantly, especially with Alejandro Garnacho, with the pair seemingly having a telepathic connection on the pitch. While I understand there is an argument to start Joe Hugill, I personally see him as a brilliant option from the bench should McNeill tire, get injured or if the manager and coaches decide to go to a front two, which is something they did recently in a league game. You could start both of them, however it would be weird to change formation when the 4-2-3-1 has worked well for United in this tournament so far.
So there are some player profiles for the Manchester United side heading into the FA YOUTH CUP FINAL! I’m extremely grateful for this team, and the U23s, for bringing me lots of joy as a Manchester United fan this season. It’s been tough. But these lads know what it means to wear that shirt. They give everything, play as a team, never let their heads drop and never give up. They have the Manchester United DNA. I’m proud of this team regardless of what happens. Let’s hope they can get over the last hurdle this evening. C’MON UNITED!!!
Please note: The football articles that feature on this site are being written by Jack Dixon as part of his work experience. He is a teenager and looking for work experience within the football industry. He is currently studying for his media and art A-levels.
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