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José’s Juniors: 2017 in review

With half 2017/18 season complete, we take a look back at how the Reserves and U-18s have fared up to the midway point of the season.

Manchester United v SL Benfica - UEFA Youth League Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images

Reserves:

Ricky Sbragia’s side have struggled so far in the Premier League 2 sitting in tenth with just 11 points from 12 games. Their form in the Premier League International Cup however has been perfect to date, winning all three games and sitting top of Group D.

It is little surprise that the Reserves have struggled to maintain consistent form this year, with multiple loan moves and rotating squads being the main reason to the inconsistency. Nevertheless, the Reds are unbeaten in four games, with three draws and one win.

With the January transfer window now open, it figures that some senior members of the Reserve squad may be shipped out on loan. Players such as James Wilson will be hoping for more regular first team football. Wilson, now 22, has endured a difficult career at United since making his debut under Ryan Giggs at the age of 18. After scoring twice against Hull City, Wilson was tipped to be a regular addition to the first team squad, though injuries and loan moves have seemingly hampered his progress. It looks necessary that Wilson makes a loan move in January for him to continue to develop.

Goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara has played in all but two games for Sbragia’s side in the Premier League 2 campaign and all three of the Premier League International Cup games. The Republic of Ireland U-21 international has recently signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2020.

Similarly to O’Hara, captain Joe Riley has appeared in 11 games in the Premier League 2 and all three of the Premier League International Cup games. The 21-year-old, who has two appearances at senior level, coming in the Europa League and the FA Cup, has been a rock for the Reserves this year. His presence on the field offers reassurance and inspires those around him. Whether or not he will look to go out on loan will be a topic for debate I’m sure. I can imagine though that he will maintain his captaincy with Sbragia’s side, and play the remainder of the season with the Reserves.

The Reserves have enjoyed a winter break from games, the last one being a 1-1 draw with Leicester City back on the 18th December. They will resume league play on the 8th January with a home match-up against West Ham.

U-18s:

Kieran McKenna’s side have been excellent in the first half of the season in the U-18 Premier League North. They are currently in third place, trailing top place Liverpool by only two points. However, it was a disappointing end to 2017 as they were knocked out of the prestigious FA Youth Cup by Derby County, losing 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in regulation time. The Reds are also in the U-18 Premier league Cup, however, their form has been inconsistent in Group F, having lost two and won one. They sit third in their group behind Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal.

Notable results this year include back-to-back thrashings of Wolves and Middlesbrough in the league, winning 6-1 and 6-2 respectively, both games came in October. The other fantastic display to note was the Premier League Cup game against Arsenal at the Cliff Training Ground back in September. In what is perhaps one of the best games to be played at the legendary training ground, United rallied from a three goal deficit at halftime to win the game 4-3.

Manchester United are also in the UEFA Youth League, a competition that mirrors the senior Champions League Groups. It is an U-19 competition, so includes players from the Reserve squads. The young reds have been impressive so far this year, and they concluded the group stage with a 1-0 home win over CSKA Moscow at Leigh Sports Village in December. Unfortunately, although finishing second in the group on goal difference alone, unlike regular Champions League formats the winner of the group gets a bye into the round of 16, while the second place have to fight their way through a play-off game. Their next opponents in the competition are Serbian side Brodarac and the U-19’s will travel to Belgrade in hopes of reaching the last 16.

Kieran McKenna’s side take part in multiple tournaments, leagues and games all over the world, giving the youngsters the best possible experience. Once again this year, the Reds will travel stateside to play in the Dallas Cup.

”We have got the Dallas Cup coming up at Easter,” confirmed McKenna to ManUtd.com. “It’s another exciting tournament and we have the UEFA Youth League again in February.

”So it’s an exciting second half of the year with a lot of good challenges for the boys. I hope they can kick on.”

One player in particular who has caught attention of United fans is 17-year-old Angel Gomes. A tricky midfielder with a knack for finding goal, Gomes has got great talent on the ball and is a leader on the pitch. He is renowned as a free-kick and deal-ball specialist with a large portion of his goals coming from either penalties or free-kicks. Earlier this year, Gomes was captain of the England U-17 squad that won the World Cup in India.

Gomes made his Premier League debut last May, coming on for Wayne Rooney when United played Crystal Palace. The youngster recently signed a new deal for a reported £17,000 a week. He is certainly a bright prospect and a name to be watched in the future.

The U-18s will resume Premier League action when they travel to Sunderland on the 13th January.