United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Where next for those moving on?

Posted by nickogs20 on June 7, 2008

For most United fans, all the focus now and over the next couple of months will understandably be on players coming in (or potentially coming in), but spare a thought for those leaving Old Trafford – in particular those leaving to an uncertain future. Several players are set to be released or not have their contracts renewed this summer, and while United do everything they can to ensure these players find another club, there are essentially only so many professional contracts up for grabs each year and there are an awful lots of players competing for them.

Reserve players Séan Evans, Michael Barnes, Michael Lea and Chris Fagan will all leave the club when their contracts expire at the end of this month, as well as second year academy scholar Conor McCormack. United’s reticence when it comes to revealing contract details makes it hard to know who else is facing an uncertain summer, although Ritchie Jones is one player you’d expect to also see leaving the club. As yet, none of these players have found a new club, which is somewhat unusual. It’s not been through lack of trying, as most of them have spent a lot of time out on trial all over the country.

Chris Fagan has been the busiest. First-choice in the under-18 side that came so close to winning the Youth Cup in 06-07, Christy has had a frustrating first season as a pro, his appearances for the reserves being extremely limited. Over the last few months the young Irishman has been on trial with Falkirk, Colchester United, Carlisle United and Cheltenham Town, featuring in reserve games and even first-team friendlies at those clubs but as yet not recieving a solid offer of a contract. Fagan has also had a trial with the Glenn Hoddle Academy – a new project headed up by the former Spurs, Chelsea, Monaco and England midfielder (and later Chelsea and England manager, among other clubs). The GHA aims to offer a route back into professional football for the scores of youngsters discarded by top clubs every year – youngsters that Hoddle and his team believe are discarded too early and could, with another couple of years of the right training, develop into talented professional players. 40 released players will be chosen to join the academy, which will be based in Jerez in Southern Spain.

Conor McCormack has also held trials with the GHA – the 18 year old was informed of the decision to release him back in April, a decision that he says was put down to the arrival of Brazilians Fábio, Rafael and Rodrigo Possebon. The Dundalk midfielder accompanied the rest of his academy team-mates to the European Cup Final last month but while they headed back to Manchester, McCormack arrived back in London, where he headed straight to Chelsea’s Cobham training base where the GHA trials are being held. He told the press “It was strange to celebrate winning the Champions League in Moscow with all the United staff – and then step off the plane back at Heathrow realising you don’t belong to them any more”. Decisions on places at the GHA are likely to be made over the next couple of months (we’ll keep you informed of the two Irishmen’s progress), but McCormack has other irons in the fire, with supposed interest from Italian side Triestina and Premier League new-boys West Bromwich Albion.

There has been no shortage of trial spells for the other players being released either. Michael Lea has spent time in the south-west with Plymouth Argyle and Yeovil Town, Séan Evans has been assessed by Cheltenham Town and Burnley while Michael Barnes has trialled with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as well as going to Shrewsbury on loan with a view to making a permanent move – sadly not doing enough there to earn a permanent contract. Ritchie Jones is also expected to move on and Burnley boss Owen Coyle has shown interest.

Most of the players released by United each year tend to find clubs eventually, even if just for a season or so – of last year’s discarded players for example, Floribert N’Galula signed for Randers in Denmark, Phil Marsh was picked up by Championship side Blackpool, Danny Rose signed with Oxford United, Lee Crockett joined Boston United, Jamie Mullan was picked up by Rochdale and Aaron Burns joined FC United. It’s tough to adjust to life at a lower level though, as shown by the fact N’Galula and Marsh are both currently without a club having been released without making a first-team appearance, Mullan has dropped down to the Blue Square Premier with Northwich Victoria (where Burns is also now playing) and Lee Crockett is now at Corby Town. That won’t make encouraging reading for the 5/6 being let go this summer, but ultimately they all have the ability to make decent careers for themselves (they wouldn’t have spent time at United if they didn’t). It’ll all be down to how well they can adapt mentally to surroundings, conditions and a level of football a world away from what they’re used to.

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