United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

And the winners are…

Posted by nickogs20 on May 18, 2009

Nemanja Vidic may have stolen all the headlines after scooping the Players’ Player of the Year and Sir Matt Busby Fans’ Player of the Year gongs at last night’s Manchester United Player Awards for 2009, but he wasn’t the only one taking home some silverware. As well as Cristiano Ronaldo recieving a second successive Goal of the Season award, there was recognition for two of the club’s most promising youngsters – James Chester and Federico Macheda being named (respectively) as the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year and the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year.

The Reserve Player award was voted for by visitors to manutd.com from a shortlist of three chosen by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his assistant Warren Joyce, and despite playing just nine times for the second string, Chester edged out Tom Cleverley and Corry Evans to take the award. Top appearance-maker for the Reserves last season in a campaign that saw him take great strides forward as a centre-half, James took the captain’s armband at the start of 2008/09 and picked up where he left off, marshalling an often makeshift defence with aplomb. His form pushed him into the first-team picture at the turn of the year, and the 20 year-old recieved an early birthday present in January in the form of an Old Trafford debut in the second leg of the Carling Cup Semi-Final with Derby County.

Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t the only one impressed – his son Darren had also taken note and swiftly recruited the Warrington-born defender to help bolster his Peterborough United side’s promotion bid during the month of February. Some vital first-team experience and strong performances were to follow but that loan spell was limited just a month due to the restrictions on the number of loan players a club can have, and James returned to United and reserve action at Sunderland in March. Unfortunately that game was to see him pick up an injury that brought his season to a premature end, but he had clearly done enough to make a lasting impression on the voters.

James recieved his award from Ole Solskjaer, and was quick to praise the rookie Norwegian coach, also speaking of the impact his spell out on loan in League One had had. When asked by host Jim Rosenthal how Ferguson Jnr compared with Ferguson Snr, James diplomatically said they were similar and he would be happy to work with either of them, although he did add he would much rather work with the Ferguson sitting beaming in the front row!

Another United legend in the form of Bryan Robson presented the Jimmy Murphy award, given to the outstanding academy player at the club over the course of the season in the view of the academy coaching staff, headed up by U18s Head Coach Paul McGuinness and Director of Youth Football Jim Ryan. This usually tends to go to a player who has progressed so well that they have stepped up a level and made an impact in the reserves, which could certainly be said of one of the three nominees – Matt James. The other two in contention had gone a step better however, with both Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda making well-publicised first-team breakthroughs.

Ultimately it was the youngest of the trio whose name was read out by Captain Marvel, the 17 year-old Macheda. An impressive tally of 20 goals this season has been accrued across all three available levels (academy, reserves and first-team), and the young Italian forward almost came from nowhere to make a stunning impact in the first-team as the season reached a critical point. Indeed, the four points won by two dramatic Macheda goals in the space of one April week are likely to look all the more crucial when looking at the final Premier League table after this weekend’s last round of fixtures.

Top scorer for the Reserves (with 10 goals) and only pipped for the same title in the U18s by Ollie Norwood and Nicky Ajose in the last weeks of the campaign, Kiko’s game has come on leaps and bounds this season and, despite the strong claims of Welbeck, James and others like Norwood, Davide Petrucci and Joe Dudgeon, he is without question a fully deserving winner of the award. Big big things are now expected of the young Roman, who will be hoping – perhaps somewhat forlornly – to be involved as United bid for Champions League glory in his hometown a week tomorrow.

That’s the official club awards out of the way for another year, but with the season drawing to a close over the next week, the first annual United Youth awards will take place some time in early June, along with various articles recapping and reviewing the season. Keep an eye out over the next fortnight as I intend to try and get some reader input into the awards.

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One Response to “And the winners are…”

  1. NicoQB said

    Great article – much better than the one on the official site.

    Didn’t read much about Chester though.

    But surely this current crop of youngsters must be one of the most promising since… since… the class of 94, right?

    And that’s not even counting Ljajic and Morrisson!
    Hope that Fergie doesn’t buy too much next season as it would be reat to see thse kids make the grade!

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