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The Academy: City v United

Academy League football returns today with an exciting trip to Manchester City.

United’s local rivals were surprisingly dumped out of the FA Youth Cup at home to Fulham on Wednesday night after squandering a 1-0 lead going into the break through top goalscorer Jordie Hiwula. That goal was Hiwula’s 20th of the season including one in the reverse fixture at Carrington earlier in the season that saw United outplayed for the majority of the game with City coming away eventual 3-1 winners.

Hiwula also scored for City’s EDS (Reserves to you and me) in the Manchester Senior Cup last week to seal a 4-2 victory and will surely be the player to watch today as United look to find their first league win of this calendar year.

United’s fixtures have been somewhat inconsistent since the turn of the year with both Crewe away and Blackburn at home falling foul to a frozen pitch. In the games the team have played in the league the manager has taken the opportunity to give players on the periphery, or players returning from injury, some valuable game time whilst resting vital players for the more important cup ties.

As we know, the option has paid dividends with United sailing through into the 6th round of the Youth Cup to host Charlton Athletic on the 29th February at Old Trafford after they put Spurs out on Thursday night with a curling last minute freekick from Oliover Muldoon. Ticket information for that game can be found on United’s official page here. Prices are £3 Adults, £1 everyone else.

I can’t see the manager using this game in the same way for many reasons, none more so than ‘it’s City’.

Lawrence and Rothwell remain sidelined for weeks but today could see the welcome return of central defender Luke McCullough after spending a few weeks out of the side through injury. No one seems to know of any other fresh injuries or absences so I’m guessing the manager will pick a fairly strong side in a an effort to compete against a decent City side that will likely include Devane Cole, Albert Rusnak and possibly the highly rated Denis Suarez who has also featured for City’s EDS this season.

United’s Jack Barmby will be looking to add to his impressive goal tally while I’m sure Mats Daehli will be hoping for a similar role to the one given to him at The Liberty Stadium which allowed him to terrorize Swansea’s defence. The likely inclusion of Gyliano van Velzen after producing possibly his best performance in a United shirt last time out, probably suggests Adnan could drop into central midfield with the steadily improving Luke Hendrie, or miss out entirely. The need for more bite in midfield could mean the manager opts for Jack Rudge alongside Hendrie instead. But, if the manager opts for Hendrie, Rudge AND Adnan I think it would mean leaving Sam Byrne on the bench and playing without an out-and-out striker. We’ve seen this many times over the last two years but Sam’s persistence up front against Swansea was a definite factor in gaining the initiative and ultimately the win, with City’s similar philosophy of building from the back I think Sam could play an equally important role today if chosen. If he starts on the bench however, we’ll see Adnan, Mats, GvV and Barmby rotate roles and responsibilities up front. Either way, whoever’s chosen it’s their responsibility to make good use of the ball at all times to reduce the heat on the Reds’ defence who will have their hands full containing City as they no doubt look to keep pace with league leaders Wolves who face an easier looking task at home to Bolton today.

Kick-off is 11:00am at Platt Fields Park, Fallowfield. From what I can see there’s no live coverage of the game and no highlights later tonight, I find that a bit hard to believe to be honest so I wouldn’t take that as fact.

So, what will I personally be looking for today. A result? No, City are a decent side and determined to have a go at winning the league, getting knocked out of the FAYC will only strengthen that. Make a game of it and compete? Yeeeah, why not. The group are visibly improving and most possessed great technical skill already, they’re physically improving and mentally the victories in the youth cup (especially the test v Derby) have given the group a belief that they can compete with anyone on their day. Hopefully they’ll keep to their process, protect the ball and believe in their possession football, if they can avoid a heavy defeat and get on the scoresheet while doing that, I think all things considered it will be a good outcome, anything more than that and we’ll have every reason to be delighted.

Look out for Jonny Sutherland’s display today, he could be busy, and with the arrival of Italian prospect Pierluigi Gollini to the club, he’ll be out to further impress after producing some solid recent performances.

Possible Lineup: Sutherland, Ekangamene, Blackett, McCullough, Weir, Rudge, Hendrie, GvV, Daehli, Barmby, Byrne
Bench: Jacob, Wilkinson, Januzaj, Gorre, Love

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