Welcome back to the first update on the Class of 22 after kicking it off with an introduction in the previous post.
As we all could predict, the first season wouldn’t significantly influence the first team for the Class of 22 lads, but two of the players played for the first team through the season. The first one is no big surprise as he’s already played for the first team and was expected to get minutes. Shola Shoretire didn’t play much, but he got three games from the bench and contributed with his first assist for the first team in the last match of the group stage in the Champions League against Malmo FF. Other than that, he had one appearance in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup.
The second one was Alejandro Garnacho, who made his debut in the Premier League late in the season and got another appearance from the bench in the last game. Again, a good experience for him to travel and take part with the more experienced players, and hopefully, he can continue his development next year.
For the academy this season, we won the U18 Premier League North and the U23 Premier League 2 division 1. Several of the lads contributed to both titles, with Jurado, Hansen-Aarøen, Garnacho and Mainoo getting promoted to the U23s before Christmas and playing the second half of the season for both teams.
In the U18s league, some of the lads were the standout performers, with Garnacho being the overall top scorer in the League and our midfield prospects contributing highly by being ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd on most key pass. Ethan Ennis had the most shots (58) in the division, but only managed to score 5 times. Compared to Garnacho, who had 56 shots and scored 16 times, it is clear that Ennis needs to work on his shooting.
The highlight for the academy this season, though, was the FA Youth Cup. The lads barely progress against Hull in the fourth round after a late winner from Manni Norkett before they smashed Leicester 3-0 and West Ham 4-1 in the next two rounds. In the semi-final against our new farmer club, Reading, the game was a stalemate and needed extra time to decide who would progress to the final. The man for the big occasions, Manni Norkett, scored our first six minutes into extra time with a screamer from outside the box before he won a penalty ten minutes later. When Kobbie Mainoo converted the penalty, it was game over, and the lads were qualified for the final for the first time since 2011.
In the televised final at Old Trafford, 4.917 people showed up to root the youngsters to the first win in 11 years. We got a fantastic start when McNeill gave us the lead after an excellent cross from Jurado from the right. We continued to create chances for the rest of the first half, but right before the break, Oscar Thorn suddenly found himself through on goal. He made no mistake when he chipped Hanbury to make it 1-1.
In the second half, it didn’t look like the lads were impatient, and they continued to create chances and play without any stress. Then, eight minutes into the half, Garnacho won the ball in the middle of our own half and turned on his turbo. Dribbling past four players, he carried the ball into Norwich’s penalty area and set up McNeill for his second goal.
Six minutes later, a Sam Murray corner found Rhys Bennett in front of goal, and the captain had no problem winning the header against the Norwich defender to make it 3-1. After the third goal, the game was pretty much over, and the question was just how big the win was going to be. Garnacho and Forson both could have scored but spoiled their chances. Nevertheless, a very much deserved to win for the lads and a fantastic achievement to win the FA Youth Cup with just conceding two goals along the way.
All the 2003 and some of the 2004 lads will be moved to the U23s next season. Several of the players are eligible to play in the following year’s FA Youth Cup as well and can possibly win back to back. I don’t know if any players have done that before, but United and Chelsea share the record with five wins in a row, so it is possible to win it again.
Almost every player had a good season and did well. Although we can’t go on in detail about them in every post, three standout performers impressed immensely throughout the season. Hansen-Aarøen and Rhys Bennett were also great, but injuries made them play far fewer games than the others.
The young Spaniard had an impressive season with the U18s before he was promoted to the U23s to play for them as well. He was good in possession and going forward with his 17 assists. He created three clear-cut chances for his teammates in the FA Youth Cup final.
I’m a little disappointed that he hasn’t been able to improve his crossing during a full season, so he will have to give that extra focus during the pre-season and possibly for a massive part of the next season. Nevertheless, Jurado is one of the favourites for his debut in the Carabao Cup. If he continues to develop and keep fit, he will get chances next year.
What a talent this guy is. So quick and so good on the ball. With the first team playing without wingers, he has used the season to get comfortable playing as a striker. Scoring a total of 40 goals for the U18s and U23s combined is proof that he can master that role as well. He may drift a bit too much in and out of games for now, but as soon as he gets the ball, things are happening. Needs to work on his mentals to get ready for the first team. Got his debut this season and will, without a doubt, get more minutes in the next one. Will go on tour with the first team during pre-season and get a chance to impress.
The young midfielder had a great season with both the U18s and U23s, playing primarily as the holding midfielder. He did, on occasion, play in a more advanced role and did great there as well. During the season, Mainoo had an impressive development and played 66 games for the academy, scoring 20 goals and assisting 20. Those numbers are awe-inspiring, considering he’s played at least half of those games as a defensive midfielder. He did his things well in the Papa John’s Trophy alongside several others from the U18s, and he will be a crucial player for the U23s next season. With Garner and van de Beek returning from loan, his way into the first team will be longer, but opportunities will be given to players that work hard and impresses with the U23s. Will go with the first team during pre-season together with Garnacho.
Garnachos’ debut for the first team ensures we can check out the first achievement on the list. A list that has been made a little longer since the last time with good contributions from Fm Rambler, who always has some good views on targets and FM in general. Give him a follow on Twitter.
I reckon that the next post will have a few more updates on the lads’ progress with the first team, as the first season is hard to make use of them. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the update, and I’ll see you again in a bit.
/ FM Veteran