Injuries threaten Youth Cup bid
Posted by nickogs20 on November 27, 2009
With the Reds’ Youth Cup third round tie with Birmingham City just a fortnight away, the pool of available players for Paul McGuinness to choose from for that match seems to be dwindling by the day.
Just a few weeks ago all the talk was of McGuinness having some tough decisions to make when the time came to select his XI for United’s Youth Cup opener, with the squad boasting real depth in several positions, but the fates have since conspired to inflict injuries on a number of players who would likely have been in line to play a part at Moss Lane on December 10th.
Already missing Etzaz Hussain with a shoulder injury since September, recent weeks have seen Reece Brown injured on reserve duty against Liverpool, Robbie Brady and Michele Fornasier hurt during the academy’s trip to Malta, Joshua King injured in action for Norway U19s, John Cofie forced off at half-time against Bolton and Zeki Fryers limping off this past Saturday. Somewhere along the line Alberto Massacci has also picked up a knock, while Ravel Morrison missed the last U18 game for unknown reasons, also presumed to be injury-related.
All of the above, bar Fryers, missed last weekend’s academy league win away to Liverpool, and many of them are long-term concerns. Speaking on MUTV’s Young Gifted and Red show yesterday evening, former academy manager and scout Les Kershaw – still working with the club on a part-time basis – confirmed that the Reds will definitely be without Brown and Brady for the visit of Birmingham, with King almost certain to join them on the sidelines and the defensive trio of Massacci, Fornasier and Fryers all described as serious doubts. No mention was made of Hussain, Morrison or Cofie, but the former at least must be considered extremely unlikely to feature.
It’s one thing potentially being without nine members of the twenty-strong academy group, but their absence would deprive McGuinness of real quality as well as quantity. Brady, Brown, King, Fryers and Morrison would all almost certainly feature in a full-strength side, while cases could be made for the remaining four to also be a part of a first-choice U18 eleven. King, having made a first-team debut and featured regularly for the reserves, is arguably the academy’s star player, while Brady is captain and Brown another reserve regular.
It’s testament to this squad’s strength in depth that without all those players, they still comfortably overcame Liverpool on their own patch last Saturday. Will Keane, Davide Petrucci, Nicky Ajose and Jesse Lingard still provide a considerable goal threat in the absence of King, Cofie, Brady and Morrison, while a central midfield duo of Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba is probably as good as you’ll find in academy football.
Tom Thorpe will likely fill the problem right-back berth if Massacci joins Brown as a definite absentee, or he may partner Scott Wootton at centre-half if Sean McGinty is needed at left-back in the event of Fryers missing out – that would likely mean Tunnicliffe reverting to right-back, as he did Saturday, with Larnell Cole coming into midfield.
Not all doom and gloom then, even if the subs bench may end up being populated by ‘keeper Sam Johnstone and a combination of academy students like Michael Keane or Luke Giverin and schoolboys like Tyler Blackett, Luke Hendrie or Jack Barmby. With one academy league fixture left before the all-important Youth Cup tie (WBA at Carrington on December 5th), McGuinness will be hoping to get through that match unscathed and to hopefully welcome back a couple of the walking wounded ready for the Reds’ assault on the most prestigious competition in domestic youth football.