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Manchester United’s Head of Academy on the pursuit of excellence

by Scott Eckersley

Improving Manchester United’s first team has, understandably, been at the forefront of most fans’ attentions this summer.

And, while the club has delved into the transfer market in an attempt to take Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s exciting, young side to the next level, there have also been changes afoot in the academy.

United’s Head of Academy, Nick Cox, has spoken to the MEN about the evolution taking place to ensure that Old Trafford remains the best in the business at developing young talent.

The U-18s lost to local rivals Manchester City at the weekend, but this won’t overly concern Cox, who’s happy to sacrifice results for the sake of individual development.

Cox says, “I think we knew deep down the right thing was to look at each individual and give them the most appropriate experience for their development and put the team performance to one side.

“Our duty is to maximise the duty of individuals, with the ultimate goal of making them reach our first-team.”

United’s unrivalled ability to churn out future stars is seen as a huge selling point for up-and-coming coaches.

It’s an enviable track record that has lured the highly-regarded Justin Cochrane from the productive England youth set up.

Cochrane’s appointment is seen as an example of the academy’s successful blending of fresh ideas with traditional United ethics. It’s an ethos that has seen an incredible 16 youth products making their full first team debut under Solskjaer’s tenure as manager.

One such innovation has arrived in the shape of former Reds’ youth product and qualified A-license coach, Paul McShane.

McShane has returned to Carrington in a trailblazing dual coaching/playing role with the U23s, the expectation being that the vastly-experienced 35-year-old will mentor the emerging young players around him during games.

It’s unique approach that was strongly promoted by the forward-thinking Cochrane and quickly embraced by Cox.

And it acts as a great example of the groundbreaking ideas that are being implemented to ensure that the production line of talent keeps on rolling from the academy to the first team.

After a few years of neglect during the post-Ferguson malaise, it seems that United have finally found the ideal
balance between history and progress, which bodes well for a club that was forged upon the promise of youth.

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