United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Congratulations to Ryan Shawcross

Posted by nickogs20 on April 27, 2008

Always nice to see those United academy graduates who don’t make it at Old Trafford go on to forge a great career for themselves elsewhere, so it’s great to see Ryan Shawcross selected in the Championship Team of the Season at tonight’s annual PFA Awards ceremony after a terrific season with promotion-hunting Stoke City.Here’s a guy who it would be fair to say didn’t set the world alight as he progressed through the under-18 side into the reserve setup – despite having great physical traits for a centre-back and generally appearing solid enough, Shawcross just seemed to lack that extra something that would have suggested he was a first-team player in the making. Maybe in hindsight this was in no small part down to the presence of Gerard Piqué and Jonny Evans in the same group, both now centre-halves of undoubted Premiership class and earmarked as outstanding prospects from very early stages in their development, but whatever the reasons, I know personally I wasn’t expecting much from him as he went out on loan to the Britannia Stadium. How wrong can you be?

The Chester-born stopper has been a revelation for Stoke in 07/08, forming a formidable partnership in defence with Leon Cort and making 43 appearances, fantastic for (barring a half-season spell in the Belgian second tier with Antwerp) his first professional campaign. What’s more, he’s terrorised Championship defences at set-pieces all season long, bagging himself 8 goals in all competitions. His raw height, aerial prowess and strength have always made him a formidable opponent, but it was the rapid development of the mental and tactical side of his game that led to a first England under-21 call-up and the offer of a new, improved long-term contract at United in January. While the England call was gratefully accepted, Ryan made the gutsy call to turn down the United offer and instead sign permanently for Tony Pulis’ side for an initial fee of £1m, a decision Sir Alex Ferguson understood and, I suspect, was quietly impressed with – as others have shown in the past, it’s very easy to spend a couple of years in the reserves on great pay and with the status of a Manchester United player while your career stagnates, and with the imperious Ferdinand-Vidic axis unlikely to be broken up any time soon and Piqué and Evans higher up the pecking order, that was likely to be Shawcross’ fate had he re-signed.

Fast forward to today and Stoke sit atop the Championship needing just a point from next week’s final fixture at home to Leicester to secure automatic promotion, an achievement no-one would have predicted back in August and one that will be in no small part down to Ryan Shawcross. If they can get the job done next week, everyone at United will be delighted to see him back in the Premier League so quickly and to welcome him to Old Trafford next season (not to mention delighted with the further payment due upon Stoke’s promotion to the top flight that was part of the terms of the transfer).

Congratulations also to former United youngsters Jonathan Greening, included in the Championship Team of the Year after a fine season with champions-elect West Brom, and Richie Wellens, representing Doncaster in the League One side, and – although it has no direct relevance to this blog – congratulations as well to Cristiano Ronaldo on his second successive Player of the Year award and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic on their inclusion alongside him in the Premier League Best XI.

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