Manchester United’s academy director Nick Cox has opened up on how January loan moves for a number of homegrown players were engineered and pinpointed one starlet whose tenure at the club started on a challenging note.
United were extremely busy in the just-concluded winter transfer window. The club was mostly focused on outgoings with several individuals departing either on a loan basis or permanently.
Some of the academy players who left temporarily were Maxi Oyedele (Forest Green Rovers), Joe Hugill (Burton Albion), Dan Gore (Port Vale), Rhys Bennett (Stockport), Radek Vitek (Accrington Stanley), Alvaro Fernandez (Benfica) and Hannibal Mejbri (Sevilla).
Will Fish (Hibernian) and Brandon Williams (Ipswich Town) carried on at their respective clubs.
A quartet of Sam Mather (Rochdale), Sam Murray (Rochdale), Sonny Aljofree (Altrincham) and Tom Wooster (Macclesfield) secured spells that will allow them to play for both their loan clubs and United’s Under-21s for the remainder of the campaign.
Isak Hansen-Aaroen (Werder Bremen) and Mateo Meija (Sevilla) left United for good in search of pastures anew.
Cox explained that loan moves are designed to help bridge the gap between academy football and the senior team.
He wrote for club media, “Naturally we would always prefer to see players integrated directly into the first-team squad where our staff have full control of their development and the players are exposed to our own first-team environment. Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho are recent examples of where this has happened successfully.”
“However, for some players, a period of development away from the club is required to provide experiences that will develop the skills needed to bridge the gap between Academy football and our first team.”
Cox explained that United successfully managed to secure loans for all the stars they felt needed fresh challenges away from Old Trafford.
He heaped praise on the club for sealing these transfers very early into January in contrast to past windows when crucial decisions would be made very late.
Cox revealed that one footballer who didn’t find life at United, especially during the early stages very easy, was Mejia.
United’s academy director said about the Colombian, “Let me focus on just one example for now. Mateo Meija joined us at the age of 16, arriving from Spain. His time with us was challenging for a number of reasons.”
“Arriving in a new country at a young age is hard enough, however, he experienced two major, lengthy injuries and had to endure being away from his family on his own during the pandemic. Mateo left us last month with a huge smile on his face, grateful for all the support he had received both on and off the pitch, and the skills he had learnt that will prepare him for adult life, both in and out of football.”
Cox indicated that Mejia told him during a conversation, “Manchester will always feel like my second home.” He added that the 20-year-old’s best memory at United is a wonderful goal against Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams when he made his return to the Under-21s after a spell on the sidelines.
Cox further stated, “Our driving focus will always be to support players to form the core of a winning United first team, but that won’t be the case for every young player we work with. As a passionate youth developer, I get as much satisfaction from stories like Mateo’s as I do watching boys debut for our first team.”
The Red Devils chief thanked multiple members of club staff who worked tirelessly to facilitate loan switches for the youngsters who left in January.
He expressed his pride at United being ranked by the European Champions Report as the third-most productive club in Europe in relation to transitioning Academy talent to senior football.
In England, Erik ten Hag’s side are ranked number 1 in the same metric by the Premier League.