On March 20th 2022, Manchester United completed the signing of 18-year-old midfield prodigy Toby Collyer.
He has made the switch to the North-West having signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with the Red Devils.
Collyer, who captained England at under-16 and under-17 level, was with Brighton & Hove Albion.
The highly-rated teenager made a total of 25 appearances last season playing for the South Coast club’s under-18 and under-23 sides.
United have been focusing a lot in the academy in recent years, from hiring coaches like Justin Cochrane who is highly rated in the country for his development skills, to investing much on signing young players who are highly ranked in their respective clubs.
A lot of recruitment had previously focused on bringing in talent from outside Britain, such as Hannibal Mejbri, Willy Kambwala, Alvrao Fernandez, Alejandro Garnacho and Marc Jurado. But after Brexit, the club have shifted their scouting department’s focus to domestic talents – and they were successful in bringing the hottest prospects in the country in the summer of 2020 and 2021. Joe Hugill, Charlie McNeil and Ethan Ennis were the prime examples of it. And now in this season they have started with the highly rated defensive midfielder on his age group, Toby Collyer with a three-and-a-half-year deal.
But things were not so easy with this signing, because last summer the club had had an unsuccessful transfer business after missing out on their 3 to 4 prime targets. The main concern around the players camp were the development issues as they failed to sell a convincing project for them compared to the other teams. This time around, Chelsea and West Ham were also interested in Collyer and offered him lucrative development ideas alongside a 5-year contract.
Manchester United were also interested in him but weren’t present with as convincing a project as those two teams, and according to some sources if it wasn’t for the discussion he had with Justin Cochrane on his two-week trial at Carrington, Chelsea would’ve sealed the deal.
Nonetheless, Collyer is now a Red Devil – so let’s look at who he is and what we should expect from him.
Toby Collyer is a defensive midfielder who can play in either a single or double pivot. And thanks to his versatility and technical ability, he can also play in all midfield positions and as a center back too.
- Combination play
- Defensive transitions
Now, let’s watch some clips of the 18 year old midfielder.
In this first example, you can see him checking over his shoulder to scan before he receives the ball. Then, instead of passing to the easiest option to the center backs, he turns and looked as far as he could, then he makes a progressive pass to the forwards.
“Cruyff told me that whenever I receive the ball I should look as far as I can.” – Pep Guardiola
This looks like a simple thing, but it’s doing the simple things right which makes a team tick.
In this second clip, we can see one of Collyer’s main strengths. In their game against Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton had a corner kick but it was cleared – but thanks to Collyer, they dealt with the transition very well. He arrived in the right place at the right time twice to stop those Spurs attacks.
In this last clip, we can see another bit of the strengths of his game. Whether it was from close range or from very wide, left foot or right foot, the academy player provided answers on how to find his teammates in the wide regions. That many diagonal switches without missing his target all in a single game game is very impressive.
In an effort to learn more about Toby Collyer, we spoke to former Brighton academy U18 head coach Mark Beard.
Q. What type of player was Toby Collyer?
A; “An all round midfielder. Has a fantastic engine and is a really intelligent footballer. He reads the game very well and breaks teams attacks up excellently. On the ball he is good and keeps it very simple. Physically he runs 13k a game. Unreal stats from someone so young.
“He’s quick, needs building up a bit physically but that will come with age.”
Q. Were you playing him as the holding midfielder?
A; “Defensive midfield. He needs to work on his tackling, that’s one weakness, can sometimes not be aggressive enough and won’t win enough 50/50 duels. But his anticipation of play is very good.“
Q. Which players was he modeling his game at or which player does he have the same profile with?
A; “It’s hard to describe who he is similar to. He’s one of them players that you don’t realise how good he is until when he doesn’t play in a match. You realise he does all the stuff other players don’t like to do, so in a team he’ll always be effective as he is so important to the team.“
Q. In terms of playstyle, who would you say he resembles from past midfielders? Can we say a young Sergio Busquets or Michael Carrick, or is he different?
A; “He’s more like a Carrick. If he improves his tackling could easily become a Busquets.“
Q. What type of character does he have?
A; “Very quiet but such a lovely lad. Commands respect from all of the players by the way he conducts himself. He’s the perfect pro.“
Q. He was the England captain on the youth ranks, what type of leader was he?
A; “Silent leader, leads by actions rather than words.“
Q. Would you have been able to convince him to stay at Brighton if he was going to leave last year?
A; “No, Manchester United is the best club in the world and you can’t pass up opportunities like that.“
Q. If Toby was regarded as one of the best talents in England, why did he chose to go to Manchester United, when there are some questions about their current development process?
A; “I know Chelsea and West Ham were also interested. He trained for two weeks at United and he loved it. I think he trusts himself enough of his own ability and he will show them what he can do. The rest will take care of itself.“
Q. Which player impressed you the most when you played against Manchester United?
A. “Hannibal Mejbri.”
Q. What message do you have for Manchester United fans regarding Toby Collyer?
A; “Toby is a fantastic player with an unbelievable attitude. He will be fantastic for Man United as he is a winner and has the high standards you need to be a Manchester United player.“
We don’t want to put too much pressure on Collyer, but if he continues on the upward trajectory under Neil Wood, Neil Ryan, Justin Cochrane and Travis Binnion – all we can say is Manchester United have got a very good first team quality prospect in Toby Collyer.
We would like to thank his former coach, Mark Beard, for accepting the request to have a good conversation about the player, and also thank you to @MemoNavarro_ for providing the footage of Toby Collyer.