I decided to start one last save and blog series for this year’s version. This new series will be a little different from the others I have had in the past, and the focus will be on the players and their development. Not so much the club, games, and the typical blog save about a club. I played with some ideas and clubs before landing on Manchester United and the Class of 22. No other youth team has had the publicity, focus, and success as United’s Class of 92 had; hopefully, this can be replicated with this year’s group of players.
How much success can the players in the Class of 22 have, and how big of an impact can they have on Manchester United, English and International football in their future?
In addition to the players that participated in the FA Youth Cup for United this season, I decided to add Shole Shoretire and Toby Collyer as they were eligible to play in the Youth Cup this season and at the same age as the rest of the team.
The structure of the series is yet to be decided, but expect one or two posts per season as the series moves forward.
To start it off, let’s have an introduction of the players.
Radek Vitek is the first-choice goalkeeper at this level, and by an acceptable margin. He’s a big lad that reaches 198 cm above the ground, and to no surprise, he has his biggest strength in the aerial department. The Czech Republic goalkeeper joined the club in 2020 and is probably the one from the trio with the highest potential.
Eric Hanbury is a year younger than Vitek; He’s actually one year younger than him. October seems to be a good month for goalkeepers to be born. Hanbury is 20 cm shorter than Vitek, and his reflexes are his best asset for now. However, he Has a lot of development to do if he’s ever going to be good enough to play for the first team.
Tom Wooster is the youngest of the trio, born in 2005, and already better than Hanbury in most areas. With good determination and potential, he can, one day, be good enough to play for the first team.
Overall, it’s not in the goalkeeper department that the future look the brightest, but they’re all decent prospects and can potentially have promising careers elsewhere in time.
Sonny Aljofree is a classic centre-back with his best skills defending and in the air. But, at 16, he’s still young and needs to work on every aspect of his play. Currently, he’s nowhere near the other centre-back in terms of quality.
Rhys Bennett is the captain of the U18s and an excellent prospect to work with. He’s already got decent stats in most areas, and the future looks bright for the Manchester-born defender. Although, something has reached to happen with his determination if he’s going to make the grade.
Tyler Fredricson is Bennett’s preferred partner in the defence’s heart. He’s to age groups younger than Bennett and already almost as good as him. I like the look of him with his good passing and his defending. Possibly the best prospects of all the centre-backs.
Louis Jackson (not in the original database) is the youngest of the centre-backs but just as good as the others. His skills are well-rounded at the start of the save, but I’m not sure about his potential compared to Bennett and Fredricson. So the jury is still out on this one.
Willy Kambwala was a big academy signing from Sochaux before the new Brexit rules arrived. His physical presence is huge at this level, but he still needs to work at every aspect of the game if he wants to live up to the transfer fee and high hopes.
Marc Jurado is the only natural right back in the squad and won’t get much of a fight for his place. Arrived from La Masia in 2020 and is an outstanding attacking full-back in the Barca mould. Ideally, he will improve his crossing and defensive abilities but is almost sure to reach the first team with that potential.
Sam Murray is one of two left-back in the squad. He has some excellent skills for a full-back already, but his passing needs to improve. I can’t trust a player who doesn’t seem to know the basics of passing, so he will have to give that much extra attention and put in the hours to improve.
Logan Pye is the second left-back in the squad. At the start of the save, he’s the superior player to Murray and probably gets a lot more game time than his competitor. Unfortunately, his vision is far too low, but that will hopefully improve in time and with experience.
Several of these players could have a decent career at the club. Although, except for Jurado, there is no one I’m confident that is going to make it.
Maxi Oyedele is a great squad player that can play in several positions and do a good job. His versatility is probably one of his most vital assets, and that alone can get him all the way. However, his attacking and defending skills are decent, and some game time and more development are needed to determine what role and position he is best suited for.
Toby Collyer arrived from Brighton this season and is an unfamiliar name to the fans at Old Trafford. A good tackler with a reasonable work rate, he comes to his right in the centre of the park. He has the skills to become a quality defensive midfielder. But, if he can do something about his vision, he can also be a decent playmaker.
Omari Forson can play all across the midfield and is probably best in the middle of it. His great flair and technical skills can create chances and score for himself. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for him. If he can get enough game time, he can flourish for the U18s. The competition is, however, incredibly tough in his positions.
Daniel Gore is another attacking-minded midfielder with good technique, flair and vision. Gore and Forson are similar players, with Gore a little better in the defensive areas and Forson much better physical-wise. Both are good prospects with a bright future.
Isak Hansen-Aarøen is a gem of a player from Norway that made his professional debut for Tromsø at 15. He’s another midfielder with his best game going forward, and he’s far better than Gore and Forson for now. With 18 determination, he’s destined for a great thing, but he needs to bulk up. With his physique, he will be bullied at the senior level. Hopefully, he’s ready for the first team in about two years, and let’s hope he gets more games for the first team than he’s got tattoos on him.
Kobbie Mainoo is possibly the best central midfielder in the squad. Like Paul Pogba, he got great physical and technical stats at the same age. The future is bright for Mainoo if he can continue his development. Will be a crucial player for the U18s.
Some excellent prospects in the midfield, with Mainoo and Hansen-Aarøen as the standouts. They all have good potential, so a lot can happen in a season or two.
Ethan Ennis came from Liverpool before the season and seems to be a smart kid. He can play in all attacking positions, and his development will determine where he is best suited. He can turn into a fantastic false nine or deep-lying forward.
Alejandro Garnacho is the main man and star of this team. He has a terrific pace and excellent technical stats to go along with it. This is the one player I can assure that he will play a role and get a respectable amount of games for the first team in just a few seasons. He is not ready yet, but his time will definitely come.
Joe Hugill came from Sunderland and had a fantastic debut season for the academy last year. He’s not as good in the air as his height indicates, but he’s a great finisher and hard worker. I have high hopes for this lad, and it’s great to see a different type of striker.
Sam Mather is a fine player and a promising talent. Unfortunately, he is dependent on a formation with wingers to get the best of his skills. He can possibly do an excellent job as a striker, but he’s down in the pecking order for minutes there. Hopefully, he can develop and find a way into the team.
Charlie McNeill is a fantastic prospect upfront. Another smart kid who left Manchester City to join the club, and that alone should give him an extra opportunity or two here. A lethal finisher with good movement and technique will score goals for this team. Hopefully, he can score them for the first team one day.
Manni Norkett is a decent prospect but nowhere near Ennis, Hugill or McNeill. However, he’s an extremely hard worker, and maybe he can turn into a decent midfielder to get some minutes.
Shola Shoretire is the most famous and best footballer in this group so far. He made his debut in the Premier League at 17 and is United’s youngest player in a European competition. As most of you know, he’s been a record breaker for a long time with his UEFA Youth League debut at 14 and U23’s debut at 16. A very skillfully player with great flair and pace, he’s best suited on the wing. However, with the proper development in the future, he’s also got great potential as a striker.
During this blog series, I will use my own spreadsheets to keep tabs on the statistics for the first-team players. There isn’t much to report back on as of yet. When the first season starts, none of the players is with the first team, but several of them can possibly join Shoretire and get their debut.
To help keep track of the progress and what I would like the players to achieve, I’ve identified and set some achievements I hope they can reach. The targets are based on the successes of the former FA Youth Cup winners, and some of them are what I want them to achieve in the future. Of course, things can change, and targets can be added to the list in the future. I can not rule out that I have forgotten something.
Thanks for reading the introduction – I hope you liked it!
/ FM Veteran