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copied this from redcafe:


Manchester United's Under-18s coach Kieran McKenna spent some time with the official club magazine Inside United to review last season and look ahead to the 2017/18 campaign.

The Northern Irishman believes the job has been everything he hoped it would be, after arriving from Tottenham Hotspur last year, and he is keen to oversee more progress when the new term gets under way.

Looking at the season overall, the Under-18s scored five goals on six different occasions so there was plenty of entertainment…
Yeah, I think we can all be proud, the staff and the players, of how the group has performed in terms of representing the club well. We’ve been very attacking and very aggressive right through the season and competed, bar maybe the latter stage of the game against Arsenal, and shown the players can compete with any Academy in the country. We’ve done that in all the games, scored a lot of goals and had good spirit. Most importantly, I can see a lot of individual development in a lot of players throughout the season so there have been lots of positives to take.

One of the things you mentioned when you took over was wanting to play the United way – that’s certainly been the case…
It’s something we emphasise to the boys, especially at this level, with a mindset of not taking a backward step but always looking to take the game to the opposition, to score goals and show their talents. They’ve managed to do that for most of the time and it’s something that will be reinforced to the next group coming in again. It is a thread the club is very proud of and something we want to continue.

What are you own highlights from the entire season?
[Pauses to think] I think there was a spell probably in the autumn where I thought we were playing really fantastic football. One game that sticks out in my mind is Wolves away when we were 5-0 up in 30 minutes. I thought, at that stage, the group was in terrific form and playing football as good as any I’ve been involved with. After the Manchester City game here [at the Aon Training Complex] before Christmas, the 2-2 draw, a lot of coaches at national level said to me it was the best game of Under-18 football they’d seen this season and in quite a few other seasons as well. I thought it was two really good sides going toe to toe and it had everything you want to see in a high-level youth game. The best football was probably played in the autumn when we produced some terrific stuff but we had disappointing injuries, long-term ones, in the second half of the season and difficult challenges to contend with. Some of the games in that period, home and away against City, and the game against Chelsea, even though we lost, were very good games between really good youth sides.

Development is key in youth football of course. Have there been occasions when you’ve noticed – individually or collectively – something that has improved significantly?
There have been loads of examples. As coaches, it’s the main thing we’re looking for. We could go through a large majority of the squad and clearly envisage things that were identified by themselves or us early on that we tried to improve. You can see that improvement and we’re really there to add value to each of the players individually, to teach them some things they can take on with them to have success in their future careers. I can certainly see that throughout the side and can see that in training and in games and that’s the biggest aspect really.

Going out of the FA Youth Cup in December was disappointing, and rather undeserved, and it meant we missed out on a run of games in the competition…
That was disappointing. Part of the learning journey is there are going to be disappointments throughout you career and that was one of them we’ll look back at and think about. We conceded two goals in five or six minutes against Southampton when we hadn’t previously lost or been behind in a game for a very long time. So it probably shellshocked the whole group a little bit and it was a disappointment for the boys. I’m sure next year’s group will look to go on a good run in the tournament and what was pleasing was the response to that in the league games. We had an indoor tournament shortly afterwards in Germany and lifted that trophy and got that taste of winning a competition. The response shows we learned lessons and I am more than confident the same boys playing at Old Trafford, in those type of games next season – in the Under-23s or Under-18s – would handle that situation even better.

I was going to say you wanted a response and you certainly got that – there was no hangover at all…
No, as I say, it’s one of those things in the FA Youth Cup. It’s a tournament we really want to do well in but you can’t hang the season on it because it’s a knockout competition. To concede two goals in five minutes towards the end of the game was disappointing, but I think the boys were able to see the good work going in and they were moving in the right direction. The most important thing is we kept doing that good work.

Was it hard to pick the traditional three contenders for the Youth Team Player of the Year award as it was very much a team effort?
It is a team effort and it changes over the course of a season. You might pick three different ones before Christmas. We had injuries to the likes of Ro-Shaun Williams and Tahith Chong who were both fantastic in the early parts of the season in the games that they played, and then there are the boys who finished the season really, really strongly. You could list a lot – Aidan Barlow and Ethan Hamilton spring to mind as they had really strong second-half finishes to the season. So I think I tried to pick three over the course of the season who were generally consistent throughout and played a high level over the course of it. Certainly, there are more names who could have been thrown into the hat.

Lee O’Connor said in his interview you helped him overcome homesickness – does it help being able to relate to players in that way?
Yes, that’s the benefit of having been there yourself, in terms of coming to a big Academy and moving over from Ireland. It’s only natural at some stage he would feel a little bit homesick and would go through that process but he had a terrific season and made a really good impact. He performed really well and is a good lad as well. The big challenge for him, the other two players I nominated for the award [Angel Gomes and Callum Whelan] and the rest of the squad, is what they do next and what level they can go to next season after being a very dominant player last season.

Quite a few of the lads will still be eligible for Under-18 football next season…
Yeah, they will. I think we’ve got quite a few second-year players who have managed to get a contract for next year and progress into the Under-23s and that’s a big part of the process. We want to pass on as many boys as we can to that level as we can and pass them on in the best position possible. So we have a big group of second-years moving up but we have first-years like Alex Fojticek in goal, George Tanner, Lee O’Connor, Angel Gomes, Aidan Barlow, Tahith Chong and Nishan Burkart. So it’s a strong list of players who are eligible again next year and, whether they play for us again, when the expectations will be even higher, or they’ll look to progress into the Under-23s, which is the goal for all of them, I’m sure it’ll be interesting for everyone to see how they progress.

It’s like a production line, so the Under-16s will move up. We’ve seen glimpses of them but they’ve been nursed along gently…
They have been. Like I said, we’ve had quite a large group of second-years this year so the Under-16s haven’t had as many minutes in the Under-18 team as we would sometimes like. What we have done is we’ve had a very strong Under-17 programme running in the background that people don’t see. We’ve had a couple of trips like the Slovakia one, where we take next year’s players away as a squad, and had numerous games at The Cliff, training ground and at stadiums like Birmingham City's. That’s a group of the most talented Under-16s, the most talented under-15s and some of this year’s first-year scholars, and we got that group together and looked at them individually and also looked at how the group is forming for next year. A lot of work is done in the background, some excellent work by Neil Ryan and his coaches, who work in that phase to prepare those boys and I think there are some really good players who can come in and have a good impact straight away. 

Are there any plans afoot for the new season - such as more Friday-night games?
We’ve had a couple at Altrincham and a couple at The Cliff with a little crowd and floodlights in the stadium. It’s something we’ll look to do more of next season again as it provides a different atmosphere to the games. The programme of games is something we’re always evaluating and I think it’s something that we did well last season with the tournaments the boys have been to. We’ve had the Otten Cup, stadium exposure in the Under-23s and some with the Under-18s, the indoor tournament in Germany and we’ve just been to Dallas. We had the Terborg tournament and different types of games, like the one against Altrincham at their stadium, and had a mix of Saturday mornings and Friday nights at The Cliff and Altrincham. It’s about providing a wide range of games, different types and styles of games and at different arenas so hopefully the boys are comfortable in any type of setting as they progress in their careers.

We seem to be careful about moving players up as I’ve noticed other clubs tend to use 16 and 17-year-olds in their Reserves. We don’t appear to rush them through…
Yes, it’s about doing it when it’s right for the individual. Ro-Shaun Williams, for example, is a player who is physically very well developed, he has a really good stature and had played Under-18 football regularly from his Under-16 year up. He was looked at individually as one who would benefit from playing Under-23 football from the start of the season. There are other players who might be just as talented as Ro-Shaun but are physically not as developed and mentally not quite right yet. So we will be a bit more patient with them. It’s not about pushing them up just when they’re a certain age or when they show a certain amount of ability in the Under-18s. It’s about us as a club, from Nicky Butt downwards, making the decision when it's going to be the right time for a player to go to the next level.

Conversely, we’ve played some youngsters below their age group in the past – Jesse Lingard and Michael Keane are just two examples of that…
Yeah they have done that. Maybe we use Aidan Barlow as an example as he didn’t play a lot of games in the Under-18s early in the season because he had a lot of competition. So he played quite a lot of games for the Under-16s and Under-17s so there were times he was playing Under-16 football but he applied himself terrifically to that and always excelled when he went to Neil Ryan’s group. In the second half of the season, he came through really strongly, got his opportunities and took his opportunities. He’s ended up playing at the European Championship. Aidan has still got a long way to go but he’s a good example of being patient and waiting for players. So he’s a good example for the boys coming in next year for developing themselves over the course of the season and being ready to take their chance when it comes.

It’s hard to summarise concisely, but what are your thoughts on the Academy system as a whole?
I think there are a lot of things in this country we’re doing right in Academy football. I think the standard of games is really high and we had some terrific games last season. I’d say the ones against Manchester City, Chelsea and some of the games with Liverpool have been probably as high a level of game as Real Madrid versus Barcelona or Bayern Munich versus Borussia Dortmund – or any game you might have in Europe at that level. I think there are a lot of good things in the Academy system but I feel the biggest challenge is still what comes at the next step when they leave the youth team and when they progress. How do we get them opportunities to play competitive football? Whether that will be with first teams, on loan, in the Under-23s, I think that next step of the pathway is something everyone in youth development is looking at and trying to refine to make sure some of the good work going through the Academies ends with the players at the end of it getting the right opportunities at the right times.

The players are clearly there – Axel Tuanzebe proved that with his fantastic Premier League debut – but it’s about getting that opportunity and making the big step isn’t it?
There are examples and Axel going in and doing so well in such a tough environment can only help the ones coming through below. Credit to Axel, everyone is delighted for him in that one inspires the younger boys through his application and good attitude, which Axel has in abundance. He can go on to achieve good things and it also shows people, young players, if they have the right mentality, if there are opportunities to put them in, they can be trusted to go and do a good job. I think, right through this club, from Jesse to Marcus to Axel, there are some great role models for young boys coming through now, boys with real talent but also boys with a fantastic attitude, who are leading the way for younger ones to follow.

As a United supporter before coming here, you know we have a great tradition of bringing through youngsters. How much of a boon is it for the current players to see that?
It is. They know it’s not the same everywhere else. I think they know they’re at a club where, historically and I’m sure going forward, if they hit a certain level in terms of their performances, and if their attitude and application is right, United have always been a club where young players are given an opportunity. It’s something that can inspire young boys here – a pathway is there – it’s clearly been seen and it certainly continued into last season.

Are you enjoying your time here now you’ve settled in – is it everything you wanted it to be?
Yeah, it’s been fantastic – everything. My expectation of the club from outside was a fantastically-run Academy who do things the right way, with good people who take care of young players and try to nurture and develop them the right away. That’s how it’s been. So I feel I’ve settled in really well, the players have been very responsive from the Under-18s to the Under-23s, when I’ve had the opportunity to work with them, and also with the Under-15s and Under-16s, when I’ve had opportunities to work with them. There are talented players, there are really good people in the building, excellent facilities and a real goal from the club I think, from the chairman and manager down, to develop the youth system further. There are some really good ingredients and a base for success in the future. It’s a fantastic place to work.

Demi Mitchell mentioned you’d offered him advice on his defending, so have you worked with the older players as well?
Did he? Okay! I have but only the good bits! [Laughs] I didn’t travel with the team to the Dallas Cup so I had a couple of weeks where there was an opportunity to work with some of the older players, who I’ve known for a couple of years from playing against them, like Demi, and I always try to speak, advise and work with any of the players in the Academy. Whether it’s the boys I work with on a daily basis with the Under-18s or a quick bit of advice and a chat with some of the older players when I see their Under-23 games or with the younger players, as I try to watch as much as I can of the Under-16s especially but also the Under-14s and Under-15s. Any opportunity to pass on a little bit of help to any of the boys in the Academy it’s always something I’ll always look to do.

Even after a long season, it's never long before we’re itching for the next one to start, is it?
No, it isn't. It’s always the way. You do look forward to a summer holiday because you put so much into the season but, two weeks into the break, you’re looking forward to getting started again. Your head is already spinning with things to put in place for next season and ways to move it forward. It’s nice to get a break but everyone is itching to get back to work at the start of July and get going again.

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17 hours ago, venusplanet said:

When was this, why is Nicky Butt in the dug out. Where's Mckenna?

Manchester United snap up in-demand Coventry City midfield starlet

the game was played on Tuesday a few hours earlier than the first team action against Basel. Butt is managing our Uefa Youth League team while McKenna is in charge of U18s

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so a few days after the 7 goal thriller in Uefa Youth League, we have another 7 goal thriller in U18 PL against Arsenal. our U18s were behind 3-0 at halftime but the brilliant Angel Gomes inspired the comeback and won the match scoring two late goals. i'm looking for highlights but haven't found any.

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On 9/17/2017 at 02:57, utd4life said:

so a few days after the 7 goal thriller in Uefa Youth League, we have another 7 goal thriller in U18 PL against Arsenal. our U18s were behind 3-0 at halftime but the brilliant Angel Gomes inspired the comeback and won the match scoring two late goals. i'm looking for highlights but haven't found any.

Its on the official website -

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