jokerz

Our Youth Development Condition ?

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Manchester United are being left behind in youth development

Through peaks and troughs, Manchester United's youth system has long instilled pride in the club's fans.

United have long been able to buy some of football's finest talents, but they have also created some of its greatest, from The Busby Babes in the 1950s to George Best a decade later and the Class of '92, which featured the likes of David Beckham and Paul Scholes.

Four of United's top five all-time appearance makers -- Ryan Giggs, Scholes, Bill Foulkes and Gary Neville -- started and finished their football life at Old Trafford, while it has become a well-used, but worth repeating, statistic that the club have had a youth product in the match day squad for 3,740 consecutive games, dating back to the end of World War Two.

Fans still eagerly watch for exciting emerging players and access to games through improved media has made that easier, but the current youth system at the Cliff and Carrington training grounds gives cause for concern.

There are promising young professionals who'll make a good career in football but the dynamics have changed. The competition for talent has increased and United simply aren't as appealing to the best young players as they once were.

First team manager Louis van Gaal has no reason to say so publicly but he sees significant room for improvement in United's youth system and was underwhelmed by the success of the Under-21 team, who won their league last season.

Van Gaal wants to bring in new coaches and United hope to rediscover their appeal, but without structural change it's going to be tough, especially as the manager has said he's only going to be in charge for three seasons.

Earlier this year Brian McClair, who headed up United's academy system, chose to leave to be in charge of the national system in his native Scotland.

His replacement has not yet been appointed, but insiders say there are so many meetings to attend and so much paperwork to complete to meet the regulations of the elite player performance plan operated at top clubs, that it's a job for two or even three people.

Before he left, McClair said of United: "We're in pretty good shape and are continuing to look all the time. We are always in particular looking and hoping to discover a local lad who will make it all the way to the first team and if not still have a reasonably good career in football. Every year we are still looking for the very best kids within an hour's travelling distance from Manchester. Then at aged 16 we're looking at what we perceive to be the best players in the rest of UK and Europe."

In recent years three United players of past and present chose neighbours City as the club where they felt their children would best develop as players. The sons of Phil Neville, Robin van Persie and Darren Fletcher are all there and their parents have no regrets about the decisions, though Neville's son will soon switch to Valencia's academy.

Traditionally short of United's riches, City once relied on their youth academy. They won Youth Cups and promoted players into the first team, but the club was so unstable that they ended up moving on. Ryan Giggs was at City but left at 14. He went on to have a 23-year career in United's first team, something that would have been inconceivable had he stayed at City

After the club's 2008 takeover, though, City began to get serious about youth development. They invested in infrastructure and talent. They invested in people. Their record of promoting youth players to the first team in recent years is pitiful, but they're determined for that to change.

Their new, no expense spared, training ground is one of the best in the world. It's also in the heart of working class east Manchester, while United are not on a public transport network, tucked away amid the fields and electricity pylons to the west of the city. It was a conscious decision of both clubs to be where they are.

"This is just the start for City," explains a source familiar with both clubs. "There's not a huge difference in the quality of the players at both clubs at present, but that could change. City have two full time coaches for each age group. United's coaches are part-time. Some are good, some less so. The facilities at City's new training ground are superior. Their pitches are fully enclosed and they have floodlights."

At Carrington, where first David Moyes and now Van Gaal insisted that floodlights are installed on first team pitches, the youth players train on open and occasionally windswept fields. Meanwhile, whereas City's youth teams play in a proper 6,000 capacity stadium, United's take place before a temporary stand that seats 120.

It's City who now get most of the best players in Manchester, as was recently the case with an 11-year-old who switched from red to blue. He's already the best player in his age group and was happy at United. However, when his older brother was released by the Old Trafford club, his parents were unhappy and City stepped in to take both boys.

Andrew Cole's son Devante has long been at City and is already a professional. United's former chief executive David Gill used to joke that Devante should join the club. At the time it was light-hearted and said by someone in a position of strength, as United's youth system was one of the best in England. It's no longer a joke.

"United became complacent," explained a source. "They thought that players would come to United because it was United, with the history of the Busby Babes and the Class of '92 -- or even of getting the best Manchester players in recent years like Daniel Welbeck. The truth is that United have stood still while the rest have caught up and, in the case of City, have gone past United."

City can approach young players and offer them a better package. Players under-16 are not allowed agents, but their parents are, which enables them to be given financial inducements way beyond mileage allowances, boots and kit.

City's young players train together and are educated together at a very good private school. By contrast, a select few United players, usually those from outside Manchester, go to a non-fee paying school close to the training ground. United have discussed building a school and having young players live at Carrington, but so far it hasn't happened.

"Imagine you're a single mum in Moss Side (a working class neighbourhood close to City's old Maine Road home)," explains someone familiar with the recruitment process. "Both clubs come in for your son but City offer him a full private education in one of Manchester's best schools, to be continued even if your son is released, as most are. If he stays at United, he stays in the same school he's in. City also offer money, maybe as a one-off payment to a parent. United offer a travel allowance.

"Or, imagine you're a 17-year-old from outside England and both Manchester clubs want you," he continues. "You go to see both clubs and see that United have the history, then you go to City and see that they have better facilities, education and they'll also pay more."

As they get older, money talks. Three of United's best Under-18 players currently have better offers from elsewhere, including Liverpool and it would surprise nobody at the club if they left.

United have an old-fashioned approach in that they want players who want to play for the club but there are grumbles that they focus their resources too much on sports science while rivals are stealing players from under their nose.

Even Everton have a satellite scouting system in Stretford -- right in the shadow of Old Trafford. United have so no such operation in Liverpool.

"It's getting hard for the United scouts," explains an insider. "United still have a couple of exceptional players in most age groups, but it's getting much harder to sign them in the face of so much competition.

City also have a popular, high-profile figurehead in Patrick Vieira who oversees the youth setup and meet parents personally, just as Sir Alex Ferguson used to do.

Money hasn't always been the issue it has become. Ferguson would tell young players that if they were patient, they would get their rewards. He was right about some but, statistically, if a club gets one first team player from their youth ranks every season then they're doing well. Ferguson was happy for reserve players on £1,000-a-week to be around, but was that right for the players?

Players often got pay rises by moving, even to third tier clubs, but that was after it became clear they weren't going to make it at United. Many regret staying too long as they held out on to a dream of making it and think that their development stalled through a lack of genuine experience.

United's youth system has become muddled, too. It long irked English players that imports such as Giuseppe Rossi, Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba were on far bigger contracts to them, but even Pogba's wages were a fraction of what he was being offered elsewhere.

Ferguson told Pogba to be patient. He was but still didn't get his chance and has since gone on to become the best young midfielder of his generation and linked with an £80 million transfer this summer.

United got it wrong and it's easy to say that viewed in hindsight, but money played a part in Pogba leaving. There was not enough of it, despite him being offered the most lucrative reserve contract -- worth £20,000 a week -- in club history.

Rossi, Pique and Pogba were all top talents who feel that they weren't given the opportunities they deserved. That can be argued, but a big attraction in them leaving was that they were offered first team football, a chance they all took with Barcelona, Villarreal and Juventus respectively.

Some United fans are obsessed by transfer targets and would wish for their team to be filled with a world XI of stellar franchise players, but ask people inside Old Trafford and they like to see players -- especially local ones -- promoted from the youth ranks.

Will that happen given the lack of current standout emerging talents? Van Gaal used Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair and James Wilson among the 15 Carrington graduates who played first team football last season -- far more than any Premier League club -- though injuries were the reason for some of those appearances and several were for just a few minutes.

Be it by not spending like other clubs -- Arsenal recently paid Ipswich £100,000 for a 14-year-old -- or by losing out to City, United are not getting the best youth players as they once did. Meanwhile, one City coach who is actually a United fan was interested in a job at Carrington, until he saw the wages on offer.

City are not naïve and know they're not going to produce first team stars, but they currently have three outstanding players in their entire system who they think have a fair chance of making it. The rest will hopefully be sold for a profit -- an area in which United had traditionally excelled -- although City's coaches do worry how departing players will cope with facilities less spectacular than that which they are used to.

United have other problems. Where once they scanned England and Ireland for talents, now football has become globalised. The reserve system in England, with too few games, doesn't help. Players at a similar level in Spain play second or third division football in front of crowds of thousands and against experienced professionals fighting for their win bonus.

Everyone wants to beat the young players of Barcelona or Madrid. They deal with the media, they get abuse off fans. It's real. In England, the infrequent matches are played in front of a few hundred. They feature 20-year-olds who've largely not been good enough to be loaned out elsewhere. Chelsea have more young players out on loan around Europe than they have at Stamford Bridge.

As Tony Park, a seasoned United youth watcher and the joint author of "Sons of United", wrote of last season: "At the halfway point, the U21s had played 11 competitive games, the U18s totalled 13. In that period the U21s had used a total of 31 different players while the U18s had used 24 different players. How can a player develop if he doesn't play?"

It was baffling that United recently pulled out of the benchmark Milk Cup tournament, where many of their former youth teams had played. Aside from everything else, United have huge support, who love to watch the emerging players, in Northern Ireland. Such was the outcry, United are expected to return.

Van Gaal knows better than anyone how to promote young players and get them winning. There's no greater example than his European Cup winners at Ajax 20 years ago. He can add sorting United's youth system to his long list of jobs as he returns to his desk at Carrington.

source: http://www.espnfc.co.uk/barclays-premier-league/23/blog/post/2511300/manchester-united-youth-development-andy-mitten

Edited by jokerz

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While you were on to that article, I was going through this one

http://www.dailyshit.co.uk/sport/football/article-3292432/Devante-Cole-joined-Southampton-Manchester-City-don-t-care-English-kids.html

Yes could be that we have been left behind a little in this front. But currently we are in a transition mode post SAF era and first team needs priority to stabilise and find some success (trophies) before energies and resources can be devoted to the youth development. I am not saying we should not devote any at all, it means that we maintain status quo and carry on with the current set up. Its not that we have not been able to produce talent. We have promoted a group of youngsters from the academy in the recent seasons - Januzaj, Wilson, Perriera, Lingard, Paddy, Blackette, Look at City and Chelsea, in spite of having so much talent they hardly get a look in. City I would say is still in primitive stage to have that kind of policy to promote youth as they are focusing to get more trophies with first team at any co$t. But the situation at Chelsea is pathetic, they send out loads of players from academy on loan to all over the continent but still no one ever seems to make the grade. 

The one who succeeds LVG will be critical to the way forward for youth development at UTD. Remember it was SAF who had the vision in those early years to have a strong youth policy and take it forward. We need another manager who can take it to the next level while being able to deliver success with the first team ... tough ask but thats what is a prerequisite for a MANUTD manager. 

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I think far to much emphasise is placed on facilities. It's not strictly related to the point being made in the article, but it's relevant and interesting none the less - check out this video by Rasmus Ankersen (who you might have heard of)

Skip to 8:50 for a part that sums it up best. He speaks about the training facilities at one of the most successful institutes in Jamaica and how it's little more than a track and a few basic pieces of equipment. In that it's not the facilities that makes a person talented, but rather their own human attributes. 

On topic, the article states that United are lagging behind in talent development and that the club don't have the same pulling power, especially when compared to City. But I think it's overlooking something important and that it's not the facilities that make a player, but their own desire to make it (and especially to make it at a club as massive as United). And despite a few upgrades to equipment and sport science over the years, I don't imagine the club has greatly changed their approach because it's tried and tested. Despite supposedly lagging behind, it was United who won the U21 league last season. 

And I understand that the point being made is that without the facilities and other luxuries being offered by other clubs, United will be missing out on the best talent. But you have the ask, where is this talent at other clubs? It certainly seems to me that the best talent that we are currently seeing - they were even developed by the clubs! City youngster Kelechi Iheanacho who is getting a few games this season; joined City January 2014. John Stones, one of the most sought after English defenders at the moment, joined Everton from Barnsley (came through their youth academy). Kurt Zouma. Made 63 appearances for Saint-Etienne before joining Chelsea in 2014. And there are endless examples. Do all of these clubs have the facilities that match City? I doubt it. I don't imagine most clubs in South America do either (and they aint half bad at producing class players..)

Instead, they were poached as being exceptional talent and it's only now that they've moved to a bigger platform that we are seeing them excel. And I'm speculating, but I imagine a youngster at City probably feel as though they have made it. And it's probably true for some at ours. But if the difference is that kids at United are there because they want to be there so that one day they can represent the club, they have a dream. And with a history of promoting youth and a manager in LVG who will give them a chance, there is hope. Jesse Lingard might not be the most exceptional talent we have, but he is one of our own. And that alone could be all that he needs to see him develop into a permanent fitting at the club. Same for Wilson too.

Finally, take last seasons fairytale, Harry Kane. Spent all of life out on loan at various clubs. Lifelong spurs fan but I don't think there are many who really expected him to quite make it at Spurs. But he was given a chance in Europa League and he played his way into the first team. All those goals he scored and he wasn't even a first team regular until November time! Did anyone really have him down as a future worldie? I only knew about him because he has been with the U-England set up for a long while and because I used to loan him on my Fifa saves. Yet now we were potentially eyeing him up for a move to United.

So lets not worry about the facilities at the club. They're doing something right and even if they don't make the grade for United, most go on to become successful players for other clubs.

 

 

 

 

 

How fitting, also on that guys channel is an interview with Ray Hall....

 

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Pretty embarrassing that some of our own Academy products have opted for their sons to play at City.

Maybe they wanted to avoid the pressures of having them grow up at the same club as their father, but it's still worrying.

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Pretty embarrassing that some of our own Academy products have opted for their sons to play at City.

Maybe they wanted to avoid the pressures of having them grow up at the same club as their father, but it's still worrying.

Examples? Didn't know about that...

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Pretty embarrassing that some of our own Academy products have opted for their sons to play at City.

Maybe they wanted to avoid the pressures of having them grow up at the same club as their father, but it's still worrying.

Fletcher's twins are the only ones who are still at City (and we kicked out them out of the academy after we found out that they also trained with City, Giggs were involved apparently).Phil Neville's son is now at Valencia and RVP's kid obviously at Turkey with his father so it's pointless to sign them at the first place (we never approached Phil's son anyway).Few fans moaned about them having Cole's son Devante few years ago but after they released him we did take him in for trial and he's apparently not good enough.

Plenty of our ex-academy player's kid are at the academy.Savage's son with the U13s, same with Wellen's son.Both Giggs and Butt's sons are with the U8s.

Results at the lower age groups mean jack all either.Both our U10s and U11s beat Chelsea yesterday (U10s beat them twice).It doesn't mean that our academy is bitching over theirs.

For the records City poached our U12s captain last season (now U13) by paying him 30k a year which is higher than what we currently pay for Marcus Rashford officially in terms of salary (one of our best U18s talent and signed his pro deal at 17).We can't afford to do the similar crazy thing even though we definitely should start to support financially more to our best talents.

Edited by khoazany

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Fletcher's twins are the only ones who are still at City (and we kicked out them out of the academy after we found out that they also trained with City, Giggs were involved apparently).Phil Neville's son is now at Valencia and RVP's kid obviously at Turkey with his father so it's pointless to sign them at the first place (we never approached Phil's son anyway).

Plenty of our ex-academy player's kid are at the academy.Savage's son with the U13s, same with Wellen's son.Both Giggs and Butt's sons are with the U8s.

Results at the lower age groups mean jack all either.Both our U10s and U11s beat Chelsea yesterday (U10s beat them twice).It doesn't mean that our academy is bitching over theirs.

For the record City poached our U12s captain last season (now U13) by paying him 30k a year which is higher than what we currently pay for Marcus Rashford (one of our best U18s talent and signed his pro deal at 17).We can't afford to do the similar crazy thing even though we definitely should start to support financially more to our best talents.

So we sold Fletcher for letting his kids play for City?  :laugh:

It's all a money game. We need to start investing in our identity. We have no problem with spending large amounts on higher profile players that hold more risk. Investing €50 million on one player is much riskier than forking out a few 30k a years here and there. You just need to be discreet about it, so that not every parent can hold you to ransom. Confidentiality agreements, etc.

 

 

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So we sold Fletcher for letting his kids play for City?  :laugh:

It's all a money game. We need to start investing in our identity. We have no problem with spending large amounts on higher profile players that hold more risk. Investing €50 million on one player is much riskier than forking out a few 30k a years here and there. You just need to be discreet about it, so that not every parent can hold you to ransom. Confidentiality agreements, etc.

 

Not really.I think Fletcher was still at the club when the incident happened.I'm only saying that we kicked his kids out.

Agree that we should invest more.But we should do it smartly instead of doing the scatter gun approach and wasting a huge sum of money on facilities like City did.You can do a lot of things with 150 mil not just to make your academy complex looks shiny.

Edited by khoazany

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Not really.I think Fletcher is still at the club when the incident happens.I'm only saying that we kicked his kids out.

Agree that we should invest more.But we should do it smartly instead of doing the scatter gun approach and wasting a huge sum of money on facilities like City did.You can do a lot of things with 150 mil not just to make your academy complex looks shiny.

I know. I was joking.

We should be looking to adopt the same approaches as the best Academies around Europe. 

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This was not always the case, especially before the Sir Alex Ferguson era. In between Sir Matt Busby and Ferguson, there was a dropping number of home-grown players in the first team. Former Manchester United coach Eric Harrison has been credited with the upbringing of an exciting group of players who went on to become the Class of ’92. Harrison replied to a demand of bringing more players through stating:

“Do you know how many scouts Manchester City have? About 10 times more than we have.”

 

source: http://mufclatest.com/how-does-manchester-uniteds-academy-compare-with-the-noisy-neighbours/ 

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City are hardly the shining light when it comes to youth development.. not yet anyway but maybe in about ten years when their money gets to work.

I dont know about other teams in the Prem, but of the top teams, the only stand outs I can think of is United, Pool, Arsenal and Spurs. Cities youth policy is about as relevant as Chelsea at the moment.

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City are hardly the shining light when it comes to youth development.. not yet anyway but maybe in about ten years when their money gets to work.

I dont know about other teams in the Prem, but of the top teams, the only stand outs I can think of is United, Pool, Arsenal and Spurs. Cities youth policy is about as relevant as Chelsea at the moment.

Southampton and West Ham have great academies.

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Southampton and West Ham have great academies.

Oh yes certainly. I was mostly thinking of the usual top 7 candidates, but based on last season and this season.. the two pretty much are, come to think of it

The output from Southampton over the years has been phenomenal. It's why they're one of my favourite teams. Great policies, great football and produce & develop some top talent. I think they are very hard to not like. 

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Our bench yesterday [ v Palace Away]

5c987f040f.png

Just for comparison sake...

Chelsea v Liverpool

b0def02155.png

Baba, Nunes [Kenedy] and Amelia for Chelsea are all recent signings, to clarify. For Liverpool they had Ibe and Teixeria (who they bought in 2012) but they did have Randall - the only current academy player on the bench between both teams. 

 

Manchester City v Norwich Home

683811fe51.png

They did have two teenagers on the bench in Robers and Garcia Alonso (and started Iheanacho) but again, these are all recent signings. I don't believe they had any academy players, past or present.

 

Arsenal v Swansea

7e8c931002.png

Gibbs is one of their own, but he's 26 now and isn't a current example. Iwobi was a purchased talent, but Macey is one of their own and therefore counts. So much better in comparison to Chelsea and City.

 

 

I'm not trying to say that because we happened to have 3 yesterday that it's our standard. But credit has to be given where it is due. We could easily have been in a much worse position when it comes to promoting youth. Compared to SAFat the end of his tenure and Moyes for his season, we rarely saw them even make the bench (heck, if we had LVG during the time we had Pogba, I'd wager things would have worked out differently..) If you're good enough, then you have a chance. We can't ask for much more.

And of all the academy players on the bench for the 'top 4' we were the only one to bring one onto the pitch in the form of Lingard. And I suspect if McNair was fit, he'd have been on the bench in place of Tuanzebe. Wilson too, but he was 'injured'.

 

 

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Our bench yesterday [ v Palace Away]

5c987f040f.png

Just for comparison sake...

Chelsea v Liverpool

b0def02155.png

Baba, Nunes [Kenedy] and Amelia for Chelsea are all recent signings, to clarify. For Liverpool they had Ibe and Teixeria (who they bought in 2012) but they did have Randall - the only current academy player on the bench between both teams. 

 

Manchester City v Norwich Home

683811fe51.png

They did have two teenagers on the bench in Robers and Garcia Alonso (and started Iheanacho) but again, these are all recent signings. I don't believe they had any academy players, past or present.

 

Arsenal v Swansea

7e8c931002.png

Gibbs is one of their own, but he's 26 now and isn't a current example. Iwobi was a purchased talent, but Macey is one of their own and therefore counts. So much better in comparison to Chelsea and City.

 

 

I'm not trying to say that because we happened to have 3 yesterday that it's our standard. But credit has to be given where it is due. We could easily have been in a much worse position when it comes to promoting youth. Compared to SAFat the end of his tenure and Moyes for his season, we rarely saw them even make the bench (heck, if we had LVG during the time we had Pogba, I'd wager things would have worked out differently..) If you're good enough, then you have a chance. We can't ask for much more.

And of all the academy players on the bench for the 'top 4' we were the only one to bring one onto the pitch in the form of Lingard. And I suspect if McNair was fit, he'd have been on the bench in place of Tuanzebe. Wilson too, but he was 'injured'.

 

 

Manu Garcia,Teixeira and Iwobi should be counted if we count Pereira (Ibe isn't counted as he played pro football age 15 before joining Liverpool).They all used to play for the respective club's academy sides.Both Iheanhacho and Roberts aren't counted though.

All of these stats about how many youth players in the current first team squad are missing the points because the likes of City only really invested into their academy in the last 7-8 years.The first real product of that investment is their current U16s which is a few years away from anywhere near their first team.

Edited by khoazany

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Manu Garcia,Teixeira and Iwobi should be counted if we count Pereira (Ibe isn't counted as he played pro football age 15 before joining Liverpool).They all used to play for the respective club's academy sides.Both Iheanhacho and Roberts aren't counted though.

All of these stats about how many youth players in the current first team squad are missing the points because the likes of City only really invested into their academy in the last 7-8 years.The first real product of that investment is their current U16s which is a few years away from anywhere near their first team.

I figure with Pereira it's different as even though he was bought in, he was still only a kid. In a similar fashion to Januzaj. But you're right, tis only fair in that case. I mostly just wanted to take a snap shot from yesterdays action, given the amount of focus that the topic has been getting. 

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Old article but nice and sweet..

How Meulensteen revolutionised the youth at United

When Manchester United’s Academy boys glide from their dressing rooms at the club’s magnificent skill factory hidden deep in the Trafford countryside, they run past 10-foot high photographs of David Beckham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Ryan Giggs and George Best. “We want them to be inspired,” said Rene Meulensteen, United’s skills development coach.

They are inspired. In the ensuing sessions of drills and small-sided games, the technique, ambition and vision of United’s youngsters borders on the breath-taking. “If this generation carries on maturing,” confided Meulensteen on Monday night, “they will steamroller everyone at Under-18 level. They’ll have skills coming out of their ears.”

Sited adjacent to United’s senior complex at Carrington, the Academy heaved with 10-year-olds dropping shoulders, rolling the foot over the top of the ball a la Zidane, and executing the type of step-over that Cristiano Ronaldo inflicted on Benfica the following evening.
At the end, as sweat and smiles lit up the young faces, Meulensteen gathered the boys together in a circle. “You all have the ability,” he told them. “But do you have the confidence to play in front of 10,000 people, 20,000, 30,000? Use all your time training. Don’t waste it. Learn. Train hard, work hard. Take responsibility.”

The kids ran off, replacing lost fluids with isotonic drinks, laughing among each other about tricks they had tried out. They all changed, some pulling on the shirts of their home-town clubs like Preston and Burnley, and walked into the coaches’ room to shake hands with Meulensteen and his chatty staff.

“Any kid who comes here will leave a better human being, and a better player,” said the Academy director, Les Kershaw. “We try to teach them right and wrong things. When they come in, they come and shake hands. ‘Hello, how are you.’ It’s proper. When Sir Alex Ferguson came once, one of the little lads said: ‘Hiya, boss. How are you?’ Two lads misheard him and said: ‘Hiya, Bob. How are you?’ Bob!”

Laughter is a constant sound at the Academy. Yet there is a serious issue that United want brought into the open, much as it may antagonise other clubs. United want to revolutionise coaching of the Under-9 to Under-11 age-group, focusing more on developing skills in four-v-four games than contesting blood-and-thunder eight-v-eight club skirmishes.

Sitting next to the famous 1970 photograph of Bobby Moore embracing Pele, Meulensteen called for a fusion of English zeal and Brazilian flair. “In Brazil, if a boy goes on the beach with a nice swimming bottom on but he hasn’t got any skill, everyone says ‘you just sit down’,” Meulensteen said. “Here the football culture is more ‘get stuck in’. We are trying to marry the two cultures together. Wayne Rooney has that character of wanting to win, and the skill to beat players.

“Why did Eric Cantona, Pele and Romario make the difference? Why does Ronaldinho? Under pressure, they have the ability to create a better situation. You can be as physically strong as you want, as tactically well-organised as you want, but you can never beat players like Maradona, Cruyff, Best or Zidane. They can unlock defences.

“In the last 15 years, the emphasis has been on physical and tactical development, not conceding goals and getting something from a set-play. That’s not entertainment. We have been relying on God-gifted players – Cruyff, Best, Maradona – and once every five years somebody else pops up. Somebody [Rooney] popped up at Everton a couple of years ago. We want a development programme that gives us four or five Rooneys.” With United’s Academy complex costing a third of the £27 million Ferguson spent on Rooney, it makes sense to groom your own.

“We want players who can do the unpredictable like Rooney,” Meulensteen continued. “I see too many one-dimensional players at the top level. We inspire kids to take players on. In the attacking third, it’s all guns blazing. Sir Alex has been totally supportive. He came and watched what the little kids can do and said: ‘Carry on.’ The manager has experience of what it means when local lads come good.”
Pictures of the class of 92, of Beckham, Giggs, Butt, Scholes and the Nevilles, line the walls of Carrington. Kershaw worked with them and is passionate about giving tyros time to blossom. “How many clubs would have taken Scholesy on at 16?” mused Kershaw a few nights earlier, while watching the Under-9s strut their stuff over on the club’s small-sided pitches at Littleton Road in Salford.

“At 16, we could play Scholesy for only 20 minutes a game. He couldn’t run. He was a little one. Had asthma. No strength. No power. No athleticism. No endurance. ‘You’ve got a bleeding dwarf,’ I remember somebody said to Brian Kidd [the then youth-team coach]. ‘You will eat your words,’ said Kiddo. If Scholesy had been at a lesser club, they would have got rid of him and he would probably not be in the game now. We stuck with Scholesy, a wonderful technician. How many caps did he get? Sixty-six?!”

In the 21st century, when street football has largely disappeared, Kershaw asked Meulensteen to come to Carrington and hone the techniques of the heirs to the Scholes generation. The Dutchman put on a coaching demonstration for Ferguson and was appointed immediately. “Rene has spells working with Van Nistelrooy, Chris Eagles and Giuseppi Rossi, who all pick at his brains, but his role is development of young boys,” Kershaw said. “He is the best coach in the world for kids.”

Raised in the land of Total Football, Meulensteen’s obsession with encouraging skills dovetailed perfectly with the creed of Ferguson, Kershaw and enlightened Academy stalwarts like Brian McClair and Tony Whelan. “Seven to 10 is the golden age of learning, so we work on their technique at a young age,” Whelan said.

“Rene came in,” Kershaw continued, “and said it was not helpful to put Under-9 kids into Premier League eight-a-side football games against other clubs with mums and dads on touchlines shouting ‘get stuck in’. When we played some teams it was like World War Three. When we played Man City last year, we had to frogmarch a City parent from the training ground. He was effing and blinding, telling the referee he’s an effing cheat. When we play City now, I tell the groundsman to shift the rope away from the pitch so the parents are 20-30 yards back.”

United know kids will always be competitive, so they work on their technique first and are prepared to “isolate” themselves from those clubs sticking to Premier League rules. “In eight v eight, the three biggest kids dominate,” Kershaw said. “So we decided we would go on a four-a-side programme of development that initially revolved virtually solely around technique.”

United commissioned a report from Manchester Metropolitan University which praised the “number of dribbling skills – step-over, drag-back, Cruyff Turn, feint and others – demonstrated” by the Academy’s Under-9 players while involved in four-v-four games on pitches measuring 25 metres by 25 metres.

Armed with this backing from respected sports scientists, United went to the Premier League Academy directors’ meeting and argued for a change in the rules, replacing eight-v-eights for the youngest kids with four-v-fours. As one coach present described it, other clubs reacted to Kershaw’s request as if he had “thrown a hand-grenade at them”.

Kershaw himself said: “The supposed experts at other clubs went: ‘Bloody ManU, if they don’t fancy it, they can pull out of the games programme.’ They didn’t listen to the argument that what we were doing was good for kids’ development.”

Whelan sighed: “On Sunday morning, some clubs will travel three hours to Newcastle for one hour’s football of eight v eights for their Under-9s. Some of the players stand around a lot of the time. We refuse to go. It is far better to stay and train at home.” As Kershaw stressed: “Once a nine-year-old has learned a trick, it’s like learning his tables, it stays with him for life.”

Evidence that something special was occurring at United could be found at Littleton Road with the merry bands of Under-9s and Under-10s, on Carrington’s indoor pitch with Meulensteen and the Under-11s and outside under floodlights with the Under-12s. United have become the Eton College of football.

Practice makes perfect. “Experts reckon it takes 10,000 hours of training to make a top athlete,” remarked coach Eamon Mulvey. So United ensure training is fun. “At the start we often put on a five-minute DVD with tricks from Best, Maradona and Ronaldo. We’ll say, ‘Who wants to be Ronaldo? Hands up.’ Then they go off and try the tricks in a game.”

All those skills are cultivated and paraded in the four-v-four contests. “We feel like a voice in the wilderness,” observed Whelan. “We’d love it if someone else did a four-v-four pilot. We need more allies. We do have some. Derby, Leicester and Liverpool are good collaborators.”

Others aren’t. “When we play Huddersfield or Stoke, they are so up for it because they are playing against United,” Meulensteen said. “They work twice as hard. It’s a battle. That cannot develop players. One manager of another Academy said to me: ‘I want to see eight v eight and a nice cup of tea afterwards.’

“Being technical director of the FA is almost an impossible job because there are so many narrow-minded people out there. There’s a negative coaching culture in England. It’s crash, bang, wallop coaching. We are different. If someone makes a mistake, nobody has a go at them.”

Kershaw agreed, adding: “Our poorest Under-16s are light-years in front of anything they have at Bury, Rochdale and all those clubs. We are producing very, very skilful young boys, who do the tricks and compete. By the time they are 12, they are ready to enter 11-a-side.
“The Premier League have a set of rules which now need a major revision. But I am stopping going to Academy managers’ meetings. They just spout hot-air. We have little Tin-Gods trying to do big jobs. Some clubs are in disarray with their Academies. The Premier League should be saying: ‘You out.’ But they won’t.

“Barnsley’s Academy was magnificent when it was built, but unfortunately they have hit the buffers, they don’t meet the rules so they should be chucked out. We are continuing to invest. Other clubs aren’t. Chelsea were the worst, but in fairness they will be the tops now.
“The FA set up a system with Academies to develop kids to win England the World Cup. I don’t care if England don’t get in the top 32 in the world. My job is to get a player in United’s first team. But he doesn’t need to be English. Rossi [the Italian teenager] has a wonderful chance. He’s like Jimmy Greaves: left-kicker, tucks the ball away. But not English.”

With Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley maturing, the English production line still rolls at United and will accelerate in the future. “Some other clubs don’t see English nine-year-olds as cost effective,” Kershaw concluded. “Some clubs would rather take a rag-arsed Irish lad at 16, who is a hardened competitor because the Dublin and District Schools League is tough but he doesn’t have great technique.” And great technique is a quality cherished at the club that produced Charlton, Beckham and company.

MANCHESTER United have effected a coaching revolution which could turn out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest Old Trafford legacy.

In 10 years’ time, when Ferguson is likely to have hung up his hairdryer for the last time, the Reds should be getting the benefit from a change of philosophy, which they hope will see a new generation of football talents filtering through.

At the heart of this revolution, which is perhaps more of an evolution, is Dutchman Rene Meulensteen, United’s first skills development coach.

United have been at the forefront of youth development during Ferguson’s time as manager, with players such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and the Neville brothers part of the Reds line-up who proved that you could win things with kids – whatever Alan Hansen might have said.

So it should come as little surprise that United have wised up to a sea change in junior football.

The traditional idea of junior football as blood-and-thunder, mud-and-blunder stuff on a Sunday morning, run by tin-pot dictators and accompanied by the howls of over-ambitious parents, has been fading away for years.

English football has become wise to the fact that the bulldog spirit counts for nothing when it comes up against the superior technical ability of other nations.

Methods

That was why Howard Wilkinson, the FA’s technical director at the time, began the academy system in 1998, in a bid to establish a series of regional centres of football excellence, connected to Premiership clubs.

Now United have gone beyond that, and are pioneering new methods of teaching skills aimed at keeping the club at the forefront of European football.

With the blessing of the Premier League, United have introduced four-a-side games in place of the usual eight-a-side matches, and are involved in occasional tournaments with other clubs keen to try the idea.

Now the Reds are introducing a graduated system which would involve kids moving from four-a-side to seven, and then nine-a-side as they get older before finally taking the plunge into 11-a-side.

Premier League director of academies Dave Richardson, who introduced Meulensteen to the club, has backed what United are trying to do.

United’s own academy manager Les Kershaw, who will retire at the end of this season and be replaced by Brian McClair, is adamant that the system he helped to set up is the right way to go.

“Four versus four is all about keeping kids involved, they are never out of the game,” he said. “But a lot of people still can’t understand why we don’t want to play eight versus eight.

“The problem as we see it is that eight against eight tends to be dominated by the bigger, stronger kids.

“In four versus four, the pitch is smaller and there are fewer players to pass to, so everyone stays in the game.

“Dave Richardson had said to me that English football needed to do something different, because we were only producing robots.

“To get something different, you need someone who understands kids, as well as football.

“I used to be a university lecturer, and if you had put me in a primary school to teach seven-year-olds, I would have struggled to know what to say, because I was not trained for it.

“A similar thing was happening in football, with people who had UEFA coaching licences, but didn’t necessarily understand kids.”

Meulensteen was a disciple of former Dutch national coach Wil Coerver, who has been credited with influencing players such as Zinedine Zidane, Jurgen Klinsmann and Beckham.

Coerver put the emphasis on learning basic techniques and skills from an early age, the so-called “golden age” for learning being between seven and 11. Some of Coerver’s methods have been called into question, but men such as Meulensteen have taken on board the basis of what he taught and adapted it to suit their own beliefs.

The 43-year-old was drafted in by United, with the encouragement of Richardson, from Qatari club Al Saad in 2001.

Meulensteen initially worked with the youngest kids in the United academy, the eight and nine-year-olds, but now works with older age groups and has even coached Ruud van Nistelrooy in individual sessions.

“Other clubs know we have something going on, because when we play them we have so many skilful players,” said Kershaw.

“We are lucky at United, because we are able to build for the long term. Other clubs who have begun academies have had the carpet pulled from under their feet by relegation or financial problems.

“It will be 10 years before we see anything from it. Our 12-year-old age group were the first intake to benefit, although they were probably selected for the academy before Rene had an input.

“We did a promotional video for Nike, in which Rene took 12 kids from a Salford school for one hour a day. These were kids who liked football, but were not necessarily in the football team. In just five one-hour sessions, there were serious improvements.

“If you apply that to an elite group of kids they should, with expert tuition, be able to kick on.

“The composition of a footballer is technical, tactical, physical and mental. The perfect footballer is a wonderful athlete who understands the game, has great technique and has the attitude of a John Terry.

“Assessing kids for those things is not an exact science. You would never have said Paul Scholes was a wonderful athlete, but he has turned out to be a wonderful player.

“On the other hand, you get kids who at eight or nine are easily the best player on the pitch, and they reach 13, have stayed at 4ft 2in.

“They still have excellent technique and can do the trick, but then can’t get away from the opponent.

Development

“We look at all aspects of a kid’s development, even including a test for their potential height. It all costs money, but thankfully the board has backed us and the manager is fully in line with what we are doing.

“We are aiming to produce good footballers, hopefully some of them for United. But we are also about producing decent human beings.”

The success of United’s academy revolution will only become evident when Meulensteen’s generation of players start to reach their late teens.

One of the ironies is that when it does start to come to fruition, national teams other than England could benefit more.

United are unable to bring in young players from beyond a 90-minute drive of Old Trafford and it has become prudent to bring in players from overseas, where the Premier League’s restrictions and their often exorbitant transfer fees for academy players do not apply.

Among the best talents in United’s academy are foreign youngsters such as Italian-American Giuseppe Rossi and Spanish defender Gerard Pique.

“That won’t win the World Cup for England,” said Kershaw. “We have ended up doing things that suit Manchester United, not England.”

The Premier League takes the stance of approving of United’s innovation, but feels it is not practical for all of their members on issues such as the four- versus-four debate.

“It was voted out partly because many clubs don’t have enough coaches to institute it, and it would just leave kids standing around,” said a spokesman.

“It is an excellent way of developing ball skills. It is something we are looking at with the FA, not just having better coaches but having more of them as well.

“We are certainly not in any kind of conflict with United over this. The standard there is incredibly high, and many other clubs can learn from them.”

source: http://therepublikofmancunia.com/how-meulensteen-revolutionised-the-youth-at-united/

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In one of the articles LVG was quoted saying he maintains a small squad so that youngsters get a chance when there are injuries and suspensions to first team members. Its like imposing on self a kind of obligation to give youngsters a chance. Am sure if the likes of Wilson, Januzaj and Periera are really good he would not hold them back for sure. 

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Manchester United angry at proposed amnesty for clubs poaching players

• Premier League shareholders agree not to punish underhand tactics 
• New rules could mean parents disclose any financial inducements
 

Some of the Premier League’s top clubs have become embroiled in a row about poaching after agreeng an unofficial amnesty behind the scenes, in a move that has led to complaints from Manchester United and means serial offenders can expect to go unpunished.

United are unhappy that at the last meeting of the Premier League’s shareholders a gentleman’s agreement was made that any club who have been guilty of using underhand tactics in the past should not face action if they admitted it to the authorities. “This is to the discredit of the Premier League,” a high-level Old Trafford source told the Observer. “If clubs have been guilty of wrongdoing they should be punished.”

Although there was no official vote, it was agreed to have what was described as a moratorium period, taking in any case up to November, at a time when the league are gathering information about new ways to prevent clubs enticing away the best youngsters from their rivals with financial offers. As well as United, several other clubs including Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur believe they have lost highly promising academy players to unscrupulous methods.

As part of their background work, league officials intend to speak to the relevant clubs about the tactics employed and felt it important to do so on the basis that whatever they heard was not punishable unless there was an official complaint. That way, the investigating team believe they will get a better idea of what goes on and, in turn, work out a system to prevent it happening in the future.

United’s information is that they have lost some of their most talented youngsters because other clubs have bought them houses as well as offering to pay for their siblings to be educated at fee-paying schools.

In another case, involving a London team, one young player was moved into an exclusive estate near the club’s training ground and his mother was given a job working at the stadium.

United have been involved in several tapping-up controversies in the past and could be seen as opening themselves to allegations of double standards by expressing their dissatisfaction with the process. However, the current regime are unimpressed that clubs can now confess to taking part themselves or highlight cases where they have been the victims, without it meaning the possibility of disciplinary charges.

Behind the scenes, United’s relationship with Manchester City has suffered at academy level over the last couple of years, amid disquiet at Old Trafford about the way some of their more promising youngsters have gone to their rivals. Yet they have never made a complaint and the relevant people at City have privately questioned whether they are the victims of a deliberate smear, at a time when United are widely recognised as having fallen behind their neighbours at academy level. City have always utterly refuted any wrongdoing.

New rules are likely to be brought in and, in future, it may be that parents can be interviewed and have to declare if there have been any financial inducements. The league has also made it clear that, while the clubs are describing it as an amnesty, there would still be a full investigation if the authorities received any official complaints. Part of the frustration is that many clubs complain between themselves but it is rare for one to follow it up in an official capacity.

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