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The Academy: United v West Brom – Preview

The Academy have won all four of their last four outings (including two friendlies in Slovakia) and they will no doubt be hoping to continue that run of results when they host West Bromich Albion’s Academy at Carrington tomorrow morning. West Brom are one position below United in the Premier Academy League and were beaten 4-2 last time out at home by Crewe Alex’ who United recently took apart 4-1.

The loss of Joe Rothwell two weeks ago against Bolton has proved to be as serious of an injury as it was first feared. Joe went down clutching his back (and his knee) and was immediately carried off the pitch, subsequent scans revealed he’d torn ligaments and aggravated a previous injury in his back/hip. Joe will be out for an estimated three months and we wish him well of course.

I felt it was important (for a change) we won the trip to Bolton to continue on from the win against Crewe after a run of four straight defeats, tomorrow isn’t as  important but, with the Youth Cup now scheduled for two-weeks today, momentum becomes vital.

United host Torquay in the third round of the FAYC after they beat Cirencester on Tuesday night. Torquay needed penalties to advance but they eventually ran out 4-2 victors to secure themselves a very glamorous tie that will more than likely be held at Moss Lane (Altrincham FC).

With West Brom below them, and morale high within the team, I’m expecting a buoyant, upbeat atmosphere tomorrow with a fairly high intensity to United’s play right from the start. In recent weeks there’s been some very obvious improvements from individuals and from the team, tomorrows team I suspect will have that in mind.

The quicker passing from Gyliano van Velzen has seen him become more productive, less irritating and more of a team player. He’s getting on the scoresheet regularly this season after struggling last term but, his achilles heel for me was his persistence in hogging the ball and rarely (if ever) picking the right pass. Hopefully he’ll continue to look for quicker passes and he continues to impress and improve on recent weeks.

Sam Byrne displayed some nice touches at Bolton but again there were opportunities to get his goal tally up-and-running but again he lacked that ability to be in the right place at the right time. Sam’s endeavours definitely deserve a goal and, if he starts, I predict he’ll score tomorrow purely because the lads and his manager are willing him to (similar to the GvV situation last season) and West Broms goal difference of -14 suggests there could be a few gaps to exploit.

If there are any gaps to exploit then who better to exploit them than Adnan Januzaj. Januzaj has literally burst into the academy spotlight after eventually making his debut in the defeat to Wolves away. Despite the defeat, Adnan certainly caught the eye with his neat touches, great close control and his vision. He’s played every game since and looks to be similar in class to our better known creative midfielder Tom Lawrence.

I expect Tom to be sidelined along with Joe Rothwell tomorrow with his persistent groin problem, other than that I think the squad has a clean bill of health and we could possibly see the return of James Weir after injury.

What do I hope to see tomorrow? Some improvement on communication between defence and midfield. Sam Byrne score. Mats Daehli attempt to dominate parts of the game. Mats has great potential but appears somewhat subdued and possibly even a touch overawed. I get the feeling he hasn’t been able to remove the shackles so far this season, maybe it’s the slight knock early in the season or the interruption of international duty that meant he hasn’t had many games, but he just doesn’t look like he feels part of the squad.

Tomorrow will also be the first time (I’m presuming) Nicky Barmby won’t be there to watch son Jack. Nicky’s now caretaker manager at Hull City and being away to Derby at 3pm I doubt he’ll be down there. I get the impression Jack’s a bit of a temperamental character, hopefully his Dad’s absence won’t affect him and he can continue his rich vein of goal scoring form that’s seen him score four in his last four games and seven for the season.

Possible Team: Liam Jacob / Tyler Blackett, Luke McCullough, Declan Dalley, Donald Love / Hendrie, Daehli, Januzaj / GvV, Byrne, Barmby

Subs: Coll, Ekangamene, Rudge, Gorre, Weir

Coverage of the match starts at 10:45am on MUTV but general updates from Carrington will be tweeted by me from about 10am (@Rimmerstweets) including any team news.