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It has been said that the current 2010/2011 academy squad is the best since the class of '92 which featured the likes of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Neville and Butt. Hard to argue that point when you see the likes of Morrison, Pogba, Tunnicliffe and Cofie in action, but next season's squad will be even better in my opinion.
Tyler Blackett, Jack Barmby, Tom Lawrence, Charni Ekangamene, Luke Hendrie, Gyliano Van Velzen and Joe Coll have all featured this season and will all be eligable again next year. Add to that the exciting foreign signings made this year as talked about in other threads, Mats Moller Daehli and Adnan Januzaj. Daehli in particular has been billed as a future first team star. Wouldn't be surprised if another one or two were added such is the current system of investing in youth.
The current under 16 side took part in a youth tournament last summer that featured the likes of Real Madrid and Ajax. United finished 3rd, which was Uniteds best ever placing in the competition. The highest finish before that was 8th. I've heard a lot about players like Pearson, Gorre, McNaid and others but the two I have seen that have impressed were Joe Rothwell and James Wilson. Rothwell looks a real talent.
Blackett looks like an outstanding player and certainly has the mentality to make it. He has been a regular for this years academy side despite his age. Barmby has played for the Reserves already. Don't think I've ever seen him play when he hasn't really impressed. Lawrence is the same. Great balance, touch and adept with both feet. Looking forward to seeing Daehli, Januzaj and Gorre in action as I've heard so much. These players should add flair, whereas Hendrie should add bite. He captained the Under 16's and looked good when he stepped up to academy level. There have been many youth sides in recent years with a lot of 'great prospects', but I've never seen so many as in next years squad. The class of '92 has shaped United's success over the last 15 years. You only have to look at Barcelona's current side to see how important youth development is (Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Busquets, Puyol..etc) I'm confident that next season's crop can emulate the class of '92 and even the Busby Babes and lay the foundations for another period of dominance.
Rothwell was on the bench for the Reserves the other night but didn't get on. Was excellent for England against Northern Ireland in the victory shield and was one of the only players to retain their place for the next game against Scotland. Looks a very good talent, another midfielder !
Ekangamene has also really impressed in recent weeks. He has so much energy, a lot like Tunnicliffe, but technically I think he will be better. He is actually very young but has played most of the Academy games. Himself, Daehli, Rothwell, Barmby and Lawrence would make some 5 man midfield next year
Yeah it is a really exciting bunch. All technically sound players with a good attitude. If you were to compare some of these guys with the reserve players who are being billed for the step up at the minute (Lingard, Cole, the Keane's etc.) I think the likes of Wilson, Barmby and Daehli in particular are more rounded players at this age than those guys were. Obviously players progress at different rates and at different stages in their careers - M.Keane and Lingard for example, but you can only judge guys at this age based on what you've seen before and I think this crop has more, and better, prospects than that youth cup winning team, especially when you exclude Morrison and Pogba. Also based on watching other youth sides such as the Liverpool crop which has seen Sterling, Suso etc being fast tracked into their first team I think we have just as much ability if not more in this group.
We still haven't played our strongest eleven this season due to injuries and other reasons. If all fit you could have a possible first eleven of Sutherland - Love, Ioannou, Grimshaw, Rowley - Rothwell, Pearson - Daehli, Januzaj, Barmby - Wilson. A bench with the likes of Pereira, Byrne, Rudge, Gorre, Gollini etc. There's a lot of guys there who have a great chance of making it. Barmby and Wilson have a huge chance as unlike others they have the end product to match the flair and skill. Daehli has been unplayable this season and has been as impressive as Morrison ever was but with the work rate and attitude to go with it. Januzaj hasn't featured yet this season for one reason or another but he showed enough signs last season to suggest he has a big future. Ioannou at the back is as impressive a defender I've seen at under age level. Nathan Ake at Chelsea looks a classy player but I'm not sure he'd match Ioannou in terms of sheer will and desire. Pearson, Rothwell both have shown very positive signs.... I could go on all day.
The fact is you rarely come up against youth teams that have certain players that really make you sit up and take notice. Villa had a couple this season, as did Chelsea last and as mentioned above Liverpool in recent years but this United youth side is littered with quality talents. It's easy to over hype players at this age but it would be foolish to suggest otherwise about these players having watched these guys on a regular basis. With Twitter and the exposure youngsters get these days it's easy for guys to believe the hype and get carried away but I don't get the feeling that it will be a problem with this group. Their demeanor and attitude seems spot on. Exciting times ahead.