United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

The future’s bright, the future’s… Norwegian?

Posted by nickogs20 on September 24, 2009

With Joshua King making his first team debut in last night’s Carling Cup tie with Wolves, Magnus Eikrem joining him in receiving a squad number and earning a place on the bench, Etzaz Hussain starring for the academy in the early stages of the season and the prospect of more of their young countrymen arriving at the club on trial, the Norwegian influence at Old Trafford is steadily growing.

The visit of Wolves to Old Trafford last night provided a showcase for a number of United’s finest young talents, but two of the more interesting (and relatively unknown) names in the squad were young Norwegians Joshua King and Magnus Eikrem. The news that the teenage duo had been handed squad numbers 41 and 42 respectively this week was a hint that they were definitely under consideration for at least a place on the bench as the Reds got their Carling Cup defence underway, and they were duly named in the matchday 18, with King contributing a lively 10-minute cameo as he made his senior bow.

That they are under consideration will be of little surprise to anyone who has seen the pair’s performances so far this season. Eikrem, 19, has always been an obviously gifted footballer but a growth spurt and some real dedication in the gym has now seen him develop the physical stature to allow him to impose himself on games; he has been the reserves’ most impressive performer so far as a result.

King meanwhile has made such an impact in the early weeks of the campaign that he has arguably outshone the likes of Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda, his eye-catching performances at both reserve and academy level earning rave reviews from anyone fortunate enough to be in attendance – indeed, we named the 17 year-old our Player of the Month for August.

Magnus Eikrem - set for a breakthrough

Magnus Eikrem - set for a breakthrough

While some way off any first team involvement, Etzaz Hussain has also made a big impression in the past couple of months. The Oslo-born 16-year old joined the Reds back in January from Langhus and – despite being touted as an out-and-out wideman and compared by some to Ryan Giggs – starred for the Under-16s in a central midfield role in the second half of the 08/09 campaign. Stepping up the U18s this term in his first year as a scholar, Etzaz has continued in that role, where he has combined metronomic passing, intelligent movement and positioning, and a great rapport with regular midfield ally Ryan Tunnicliffe to assert himself as one of the most impressive performers in a United academy side that has started the season well. Competition for midfield places is fierce at every level within the club, but reserve appearances are definitely a realistic possibility for Etzaz this season.

Reserve boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is understandably delighted with the progress of his three young compatriots, not least because the United legend played a big part in all three of them joining the club. One of the benefits of having Ole in charge of the second string is the relationship he has with the Norwegian media, a much more relaxed and open rapport than is understandably the case with other coaches and the English press, and something that results in more detailed and enlightening updates and interviews, particularly regarding or with the young Norwegians at the club.

One such interview appeared recently in Aftenbladet. Coming at a time when the acquisition of young foreign players by the top English clubs has been under great scrutiny, the young trio were keen to stress how the move to Manchester was definitely the right one for them, with Magnus stating: “It’s a dream to be here. Ask any kid in Norway, or the entire world. Everyone would want to be in our position. You do think that perhaps you should’ve stayed at home, but it was completely right for me to go. I’m sure some in my family would say I left too early, but they supported me, and I’m very thankful for that”.

All three agree that they have no regrets at all about leaving Norway at such a young age, with Etzaz echoing the view that he’s at the right club: “I think this is the best place to be for my development”. The article reveals that both Etzaz and Joshua have their parents living with them, while Magnus shares lodgings with Joshua in Sale, a short distance from United’s Carrington training ground.

With regards to the youngsters’ progress, Ole is fulsome in his praise.

Ole on Magnus:

“Magnus has taken a very, very big step this summer. He listened to our advice, and did as we said he should. Now he’s back as one of the leaders of the reserve team, so this season he’s one of those the team is built around. That benefits his development too, and he’s started very well this season”. (In another interview with rbnett.no, OGS also revealed that Magnus had grown 5cm already this year and is now 1.8m tall, and that he had undergone an operation over the summer to improve his breathing. A possible loan move after Christmas is mooted, with clubs in Holland and Belgium said to be interested after the 19 year-old’s impressive form on United’s pre-season trip to the low countries – Magnus’ hometown club of Molde is another option.)

Ole on Joshua:

“He’s a lot like John Carew. Same type of football, same type of build. Same type of everything, really. I know John well. John said that if he’s been as dedicated as me, he’d be among the three best strikers in the World. He’d rather live life a little, and focus on the football 90%. I will make sure Joshua goes for it 100%. Then we have a future striker for the national side.”

Ole on Etzaz:

“Paul McGuinness says he has made nine months of progression in only three months. He’s a very intelligent footballer, with good technique and stamina. It would be good if he develops enough to earn his chance for the reserves during the season. I first saw him when he was 14. Since then he’s developed what were then his weaknesses enormously. His stamina is bigger now. Nils Johan Semb (former coach for the Norwegian national team) says he’s comfortably been the best player for the Norwegian u16s and u17s. An exciting player!”

Clearly hopes are high that all three can make the grade at United, and the club’s pursuit of the most promising young talent from Norway doesn’t stop there. As has been the case for a few years now, OGS spent some of his summer back at the academy he has established in his native Kristiansund, where he observed and worked with a number of the country’s most gifted youngsters. Three of those will be coming to Manchester in October for trials – midfielders Sondre Tronstad (IK Start) and Mats Daehli (FC Lyn) and forward Herman Stengel (Stabaek), all 14 years old but currently playing a couple of age groups above that (as Eikrem, King and Hussain did).

Coming on the back of several other trials for Norwegian youngsters in recent months, that country looks set to have a significant presence amongst the playing staff at MUFC for the forseeable future. Fingers are crossed that some of them will go on to make the same impact in the red shirt as the likes of Ronny Johnsen, Henning Berg and their mentor Solskjaer…

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9 Responses to “The future’s bright, the future’s… Norwegian?”

  1. I wish Fletcher was Irish said

    Not only was he a class goalscorer when he played for us but now Ole is making sure we have bright future. The word legend is used far too much these days, but this guy is a true United legend.

  2. LouisRocca said

    Hi Nick.
    Great reading as always.
    As a noggie, I find the progress of our young norwegians a fantastic reading. I’ve been a United-fan since 1983, and I have allways followed the clubs youth closely. It is nothing more satisfaing than seeing youngsters comming trough our ranks.

    It will be very interesting to see how the new crop of norwegians will do when they comming over on trial in October. They are going to watch the United-Liverpool match before they start their trials.

  3. bobbygee said

    The young guys did great. A 1-0 win was a good result. Chelsea lost today. This was a great result. Man U is in first place. 2-0 win over Stoke City was needed result.

  4. Mancunian Red said

    This is a really good article, very well researched and informative.

    Well done to the author!

  5. […] The future’s bright, the future’s… Norwegian? With Joshua King making his first team debut in last night’s Carling Cup tie with Wolves, Magnus Eikrem joining […] […]

  6. […] delen av MUSS sångbok handlade om city: MUSS sångbok [X]: This Is How It Feels to Be city. ¤ United Youth är som alltid bäst när det gäller information om Uniteds reserv- och juniorlag. Den här […]

  7. Ole said

    A great game by the norwegians today!

  8. hakanrylander said

    Thanks for a very interesting article!

  9. Karsten Svendheim said

    The three 14 year old boys visiting in October has great talent. I watched them during a Regional (Oslo and South East parts of Norway) training session and also later at the Solskjær Academy. No doubt they will be part of the National Team of 15 year olds next year. Two other boys also stood out during those trials: Bård Finne, a striker from Brann, Bergen and goalkeeper Vegard Norheim from Flint Tonsberg. Perhaps Ole Gunnar will call them over later. By the way Sondre Tronstad is a big Liverpool fan – and so was in fact Ole Gunnar before he joined Untied! Good luck to them all in the future

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