United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Academy Semi-Final Preview: The Arsenal View

Posted by nickogs20 on May 6, 2010

Ahead of tomorrow’s much-anticipated Barclays Premier Academy League semi-final against Arsenal at Carrington, we’ve spoken to Jamie over at Young Guns to get a view on the game and the two teams from an opposing perspective.

UY: It’s United vs Arsenal at youth level, the first meeting between the two sides since 2007 and a memorable Youth Cup semi-final. Having clinched Group A a while back, what were your thoughts on finding out United would be your opponents?

YG: Well initially it was just pure joy not to face the same sides that we face week in, week out. At Reserve level, our coach Neil Banfield spoke recently about how he wishes the sections were made into a correct league. Arsenal want to play Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool and I’m sure Paul McGuinness would like a crack at facing Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa. So just to face somebody different is brilliant, but to also face an interesting challenge in United.

The majority of interested parties are looking forward to a very intelligent and slick football game, instead of the traditional bullish, “park the bus” approach we often see. This is really going to be a stage for the best players in each team to play to their capabilites in a competitive environment without being kicked from pillar to post by average players who can’t really compete.

UY: With the geographical divide in youth football in England our paths don’t cross very often, but what are your impressions of United’s youth setup in general and, if any, of the current United side?

YG: The general perception is that United’s youth system isn’t what it was and it’s filled with ‘stolen’ foreign players. The Beckham, Scholes era set such a high standard that the uneducated media and a selection of moronic fans believe that enough isn’t being done to find more like those. They don’t understand that it was probably a one off, and the likes of Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown etc are more than enough evidence that it’s still going strong.

There is a media agenda against the top clubs in England signing foreign talent. Additions like Davide Petrucci and Paul Pogba fueled the fire but personally I think it’s just natural. It’s the same at many clubs including Arsenal to indulge in signings from the continent. That said, the local boys mixed with some foreign flair leaves Manchester United with an exciting and inventive side, one which we’re excited about facing.

Benik Afobe - Arsenal's danger man?

UY: Obviously winning any of these groups is the sign of a really good all-round team, especially one with the Youth Cup winners in as well as teams like Palace and West Ham with great youth football traditions, but what would you say are this Arsenal side’s main strengths? And on the flipside, any weaknesses United might be able to target and exploit?

YG: This current crop have stepped into difficult footsteps. In terms of natural talent, they’re the best since Wenger reformed the system 10 years ago. He said two of this current Under 18 team are “technically perfect” so on paper, it’s a very good side. The issue is that they’ve not been together very long, and injuries and such have meant foreign boys have come in to fill the gaps.

The main strengths about this side is their height, power and raw energy. Our front three, Benik Afobe, Luke Freeman and Roarie Deacon are all very strong, they fight for everything, they don’t give up. Afobe is well over 6 foot and is our leading scorer, with 18 goals, while Freeman has 15 and Deacon 12. In midfield, Chuks Aneke is a monster, but he’s beautifully composed and has amazing vision.

The only downside is defending (typical Arsenal). We’ve had about 5 different left backs and the lack of pace at the back is a real issue. However, Ignasi Miquel, for example, is 193cm so we’re brilliant in the air.

Team Prediction: 4-3-3: McDermott; Hajrovic, Boateng, Miquel, Evina; Aneke, Frimpong, Henderson; Deacon, Afobe, Freeman.

UY: You’re reigning Academy League champions of course, as well as 2009 Youth Cup winners – how does this side compare to that double-winning group, and to previous Arsenal youth sides? And does all that recent experience and success in knockout matches these last few years give you a bit of an advantage heading into this tie?

YG: This side is completely different to that double team. The double team had grown up together, they’d been playing and winning for 10 years and now they’re shining out on loan. This current crop has been thrown together really and it shows. In terms of individual talent, they’re top class, but as a team, they’re still getting to know each other. Our coach Steve Bould is a brilliant tactician and a good motivator so if it’s a tight game, his football nous could be key.

UY: And finally, a prediction?

YG: Really hard one because it depends which Arsenal turns up. If they play like they did in the Youth Cup this year, they’ll get turned over and crushed. We have a lot of goals in this team and striker Freeman, who’s the youngest ever player to play in the FA Cup when he played for Gillingham, has a habit of grabbing key goals. I’d say whoever wants it most will edge it, and whoever wins will get the Cup at the end of it. Personally, I’m just excited about a quality game of football.


Think we can all agree with that last sentence. I’ve also given a United perspective for Young Guns, and you can read that here.

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3 Responses to “Academy Semi-Final Preview: The Arsenal View”

  1. swissgooner said

    The player pictured is not Afobe, but Gilles Sunu, a 19 years old French striker of Togolese descent. He’s a reserve player.

  2. steve said

    how annoying to lose on penalties.
    and i hav’nt heard anything about a third place play off it makes alot of sense to have one the day before the final, i don’t know who won the other semi but that leicster team won their league unbeatan i think.
    i was one suprised to see pogba involved since i thought he was banned but then even more suprised to see him on the bench as i’d say he’s one of if not our best player at that level, but we are so strong in center midfeild in this team with pogba, morrison, tunicliff and hussain surely one of them will make it all the way.

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