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José's Juniors Season Recap 2017/18

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Reserves relegated. U-18s champions. Future still bright.

Northern Ireland U18s v Manchester United U18s: SuperCupNI Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Reserves:

It's been a season to forget for Manchester United’s U-23 side, who ended the season with relegation from the Premier League 2 Division 1. Ricky Sbragia’s side finished rooted to the bottom of the table with a disappointing 20 points from 22 games.

Aside from the Premier League domestic campaign, Manchester United participated in the Premier League International Cup competition, composed of U-23 outfits from across Europe. The Reds were much more successful in this competition, winning all three of their group stage games, topping Group D. However, their exit was swift, as visiting Villarreal crushed any cup glory with a 2-0 win in the quarter finals.

It was a tough season for the U-23s, which is partly down to varied reasons. The U-23 side often has a makeshift team, that chops and changes frequently, not allowing for a cemented, continuous outfit that can produce consistent performances. Players that perform well in the U-23s are frequently called up to the first team. For example, the emergence of Scott McTominay in José Mourinho’s first team squad. The Scottish midfielder started his 2017/18 campaign captaining Ricky Sbragia’s side, but his impressive displays warranted a call-up to the senior side, making a total of 23 appearances in all competitions.

The senior players of the U-23 side are also a target for loan moves. Manchester United had a total of 9 loan players throughout the season. Players such as Sam Johnstone, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Andreas Pereira would not typically feature for the U-23s, but a substantial amount of talent was still absent in Sbragia’s team selection.

Most notably, the loss of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson for a large portion of the season, Devonte Redmond, Dean Henderson, and latterly Demetri Mitchell all impacted the sides consistent performances.

Looking to next season, Manchester United’s U-23s will have to continue without experienced captain Joe Riley, who has recently moved to League One side Bradford City on a permanent deal. Ricky Sbragia will look to the senior players, such as Roshaun Williams, Kieran O’Hara, Demetri Mitchell and Ethan Hamilton to lead them back to Division 1. The addition of new professionals coming from the impressive U-18s will also be a benefit.

U-18s:

What a season for Manchester United U-18s!

Kieran McKenna’s side finished the season winning the Premier League U-18 North title with an impressive 48 points from 22 games. The Reds triumphed over noisy neighbors Manchester City – who finished second – and famous rivals Liverpool – who finished third. Winning the North title took United to the Premier League U-18 Final, where they were matched with the best team in the South league, Chelsea. The London side prevailed, winning 3-0.

Elsewhere, the U-18s participated in the Premier League Cup, where they finished third in the group stage, leading to elimination from the competition. The Reds competed in the famous FA Youth Cup, but once again stumbled and were knocked out by Derby County in the third round. The game ended 2-2 on a freezing evening at Pride Park, with the Rams winning via penalty shoot-out.

Unlike the U-23s, Manchester United’s U-18s fielded a mostly consistent team that gelled well together and produced some breathtaking attacking football. They put six goals past opposition on four different occasions, and scored a mesmerizing 65 goals throughout the campaign. The Reds have lost a handful of second year scholars, who will either turn professional and advance to the U-23s, or find playing time elsewhere.

There have been some standout performances from players across the team this year. With the tantalizing ability of Angel Gomes, the scoring prowess of Mason Greenwood and Nishan Burkart, and the agility and speed of Tahith Chong, United’s future looks bright.

U-19s:

Manchester United also had a multitude of competitions they took part in that consisted of a combined U-19 squad. Most notably, the young Reds played in the UEFA Youth League, battling it out in Group A with FC Basel, SL Benfica and CSKA Moscow, replicating the senior squad.

Manchester United finished with 11 points, matching FC Basel’s points tally, but the Swiss side had a superior goal difference and clinched top spot. This took the Reds to Belgrade, Serbia to face Brodarac in a play-off tie to determine a spot in the round-of-16. The Reds ran out 2-0 winners in comfortable style, leading to a mouthwatering match-up against Liverpool. The Merseyside rivals beat United 2-0, ending their UEFA Youth League hopes.

Next up for the U-19s was a March trip across the pond to Dallas, Texas for the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup, a competition the Reds have taken part in for the past few years. United topped their group, but fell short in the semi-finals against a strong Arsenal outfit.

Most recently, Manchester United travelled to Holland to take part in the ICGT Tournament, with a whole host of famous teams pitting their young talent against each other. Manchester United thrived in the competition, taking top spot in their group, before beating Red Bull Brasil 1-0 in the semi-final thanks to a Mason Greenwood goal. It was a fairytale showdown for the young Reds, matching up against Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Greenwood was the hero once again, scoring the only goal of the game to give Manchester United the trophy. Greenwood was named Player of the Tournament, but perhaps more impressively, the Reds did not concede throughout the whole tournament.