In a post-match interview with Mark Sullivan on MUTV following a 2-0 loss away at Southampton, Warren Joyce made scathing remarks about the current group of U23s players who he branded as “deluded”, saying they “looked like a group of individuals just thrown together.”
Responding to a question about whether the lack of a recognised striker and limited options caught up with the U23s, Joyce said: “You can still have desire, you can still have a passion to play for Manchester United.”
Having only just left the dressing-room where it is likely he just gave his team a dressing down, he admitted this is not the first time this season that he has said to the group about being embarrassed at the way they’ve played.
In a brutal assessment of his side’s performance Joyce stormed on to say: “You’ve got to be able to cope with that the little bit of pressure, handle the ball, have an idea of what you’re going to do with the ball before you pass it, be prepared to run, be prepared to win your individual battles, be prepared to close down and help your teammate out and work as a team and a unit. They’re all the fundamentals that we’ve been very successful in doing over quite a long period now.”
Joyce feels the successes experienced by youth academy graduates over recent years has possibly had a negative impact, giving some players unrealistic expectations of their future. He continued: “It’s a situation where it is not an automatic thing at this place [United] that players just go and be successful, as they’ve been in the last few years. Where if they’re not good enough to play for Manchester United, they drift into leagues and have successful careers. This group are almost deluded really, as to where they’re at.” Reference was also made a number of players from United’s academy who were involved in Premier League matches over the weekend.
Under Joyce’s stewardship, the U23s (previously U21s) have developed a reputation for having an excellent work ethic which has seen United work right up until the final whistle and has been instrumental to several of the victories over the previous number of seasons. The perceived lack of that effort on the pitch at St. Marys, was particularly infuriating for the manager.
“Really you want that stamp of you as a coach”, observed the 51 year old.
“As a manager you want your team to look and have the personality of yourself, so that’s why it’s frustrating for myself. You know I think I’ve got a bit more ambition than they have for them to have successful careers.”
The relative youth of the squad was rejected as an excuse for the performance also as a number of the players, while not necessarily playing for the first team, have been in and around the squad for a while now. While Joyce made it clear that the focus at this level is about development and not winning, he reiterated: “It’s not easy to have a 10 or 15 year career in the game. There’s no automatic right that anybody’s got, that just because they’ve played here, that they can leave and get a successful job.” He also said the players needed to show that they are worthy of playing for a club like Manchester United.
Despite the poor performance and result, the manager was happy to be bringing his team to play at a Premier League senior team’s stadium – a feature that he has expressed his appreciation of in the past, although he would undoubtedly prefer if there were more matches at first team stadiums. The rules of the U23s Premier League require that teams play at least three matches at their home stadium over the course of the season.
He conceded there was a lot of work to be done over the course of the coming season with this group and he anticipated it is going to be a long, hard season for the reigning champions at this level. The U23s are due to face Chelsea at Leigh Sports Village next Sunday afternoon (August 28, kick-off 13.05) and that fixture is followed by an away trip to the Etihad Stadium for a derby against Man City (September 9).
While it was no surprise Joyce was unhappy with the result and the performance, it was surprising that after only two matches in the league that he would choose to air his frustrations with the players on the club’s official television channel. It may well be that the players need to hear a few home truths perhaps an emotionally led interview so soon after the final whistle was not the most appropriate way of dealing with the situation.
In particular Joyce referenced this was not the first time he has been annoyed with performances by this group, since the preseason games. If that’s the case, then as manager a level of responsibility also resides with him in relation to what is happening. He used only one substitute against Southampton when there were other options available on the bench, younger players who could have gotten minutes at U23s level under their belts as well as an opportunity to stake a claim for a position.
Perhaps his explosion was designed as a wake up call for players, hopefully precipitating a revival of the passion and effort required of wannabe Man United first teamers; a timely reminder of what is at stake every time they step on the pitch at reserve level. A serious uplift in terms of the quality of football on show (and now morale) will be required if the team hopes to claim some points off the upcoming fixtures.