Erik ten Hag made a lineup decision for Manchester United’s Under-19s clash against Galatasaray in the UEFA Youth League earlier this week.
The manager has previously explained how the academy team at Carrington was ‘isolated’ and it has come out that he now has further involvement amongst the coaches.
Ten Hag regularly decides which youth players are introduced to United’s first-team training and he has also allowed youth team coaches to be involved in their pre-match meetings before European games.
With the club now back in the Champions League, the under-19s are drafted into the youth equivalent competition, and Travis Binnion and his staff were aware of the approach that the first-team was going for against Galatasaray so that they can ensure there are similarities with how the youth team play.
“The competition is amazing because you get a couple of days leading, which we don’t tend to do with the normal U18 and U21 games,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “We get the opportunity to look at how the first-team is going to set up and we’re in their meetings.
“That’s not to say every youth team and first-team plays the same, but you’d definitely like to think there’s some correlation there, so you understand how they’re going to go about it and then we think whether we can do the same.
“If not, how do we approach it, it might be a different shape or personnel. The learning goes on and the games are priceless.”
Of course, in hindsight, the youngsters perhaps could’ve shown the first-team a thing or two after their 3-2 defeat against the Turkish side. Binnion’s side won 3-0 at Leigh Sports Village earlier in the day on Tuesday.
Omari Forson was key in the victory as he scored twice and assisted the other goal. The talented winger was involved in Ten Hag’s pre-season tour with the first-team.
Also, 16-year-old Shea Lacey made his mark from the bench, topping off an excellent cameo with a pinpoint assist for Forson in the closing stages of the game.
Binnion wants to ensure that the talented Lacey keeps his feet on the ground, but cannot deny that his talent and potential are obvious.
“He’s got loads of ability. We don’t hype him up, we let other people do that,” Binnion said. “He’s got lots to learn, but the quality is there for all to see, so he’s got to make sure his mentality is there, how he sees things in games and if that matches his talent, he can keep getting better and better. You’ve seen today with his pass for Omari and coming on, he made a real difference.”
Ten Hag’s involvement in the youth process was best explained by Binnion, who revealed that Lacey was originally supposed to start for the U19s on Tuesday but had to settle for the bench after Forson was made available due to returning players in the first-team.
Forson was selected on the bench for United’s defeat against Bayern Munich last month but was not needed this week after Antony returned to the squad. But the Dutch manager wanted to ensure he got needed game-time with Binnion’s side.
“He was due to start today,” said Binnion of Lacey after the win. “But the manager made a couple of players available and he understands that Omari is three years older and a talented player himself, but then to come on and effect it [the game] as he did, it’s really positive.”
Ten Hag must navigate the pressure he is receiving in the first-team at the moment but it appears that his work with the youth team is positive for the long-term future of the academy.
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