United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Midfield maestro offered professional contract

Posted by nickogs20 on February 13, 2009

Erstwhile Under-18s skipper and recent reserve regular Matt James has been rewarded for his fine form at both levels this season with the offer of a two-year professional contract at United.

James was outstanding for the academy in the first half of the season, the U18s having one of their best academy league campaigns in years under his captaincy. Very much a box-to-box midfield player whose defensive qualities have seen him called into action at centre-half on a number of occasions, it was the 17 year-old’s creativity, surging runs and hitherto unforeseen prowess in front of goal that caught the eye – 6 goals in 12 starts an impressive return, with only the woodwork preventing that stat looking significantly more impressive.

A sporadic fixture in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve side before Christmas (his versatility earning him chances despite the stern competition for the central midfield berths), Matt has stepped up to the second string full-time since the U18s elimination from the FA Youth Cup and has seized the opportunity offered by the departure of Tom Cleverley and Sam Hewson on loan (and Darron Gibson and Rodrigo Possebon’s continued presence on the fringes of the first-team) to make himself first-choice in the reserve engine room over the past month. The Bacup-born teenager was particularly impressive in last week’s 2-0 win over Bolton, coming within inches of scoring his first goal at that level.

Impressive last season in his first scholarship year, James nonetheless spent the majority of that season playing at centre-back, limiting his opportunity to really show his full range of abilities. His terrific displays this campaign have dispelled any doubts about him having the quality to continue progressing through the ranks at Old Trafford and a professional contact was always likely to be in the offing. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke at length with many of the club’s youngsters in the first weeks of 2009, always fretful occasions for youngsters wondering where their future lies, but James had no cause for concern – he was the recipient of the best possible news, the offer of a two-year deal.

Matt’s father Lynton told the Rossendale FreePress of his son’s (and the family’s) delight:

“He was really happy. He thought that he might be offered a one-year contract and to get two years is great for him.

“He has made it to the reserves now and he just wants to keep his head down and try to establish himself as a strong reserve player. If he works hard then he might go out on loan or maybe fulfil his dream to play in the first team.

“Everybody in the family is absolutely over the moon for him. He has worked very hard and has kept coming through and Maxine, Reece (Matt’s brother) and I are really pleased for him. But now he has to keep working hard if he wants to keep progressing.”

There’s no official word on contract offers for James’ fellow second year scholars, although United Youth understands left-back Joe Dudgeon has also been offered professional terms. Gary Woods is known to be looking for a new club, while Kenny Strickland has been linked with a summer switch to West Bromwich Albion.

2 Responses to “Midfield maestro offered professional contract”

  1. […] U19 starlet James has put pen to paper on a two-year contract, as we revealed back in February. The 17 year-old midfielder was one of the outstanding performers in United’s youth setup […]

  2. […] from the field of play, U18s skipper and reserve regular Matt James was handed a first professional deal, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke glowingly of the progress made the Reds’ young Italian duo […]

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