Oxford United manager Michael Appleton has been targeted by Manchester United to become their next academy director, according to the Sunday People.

The 40-year-old is reportedly considering an offer to take up the role at Old Trafford, where he took his first steps as a professional footballer.

The lifelong Manchester United fan made two appearances as a teenager for the Red Devils before a knee injury forced his career to come to an end at the age of 27 after spells with Preston and West Brom.

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After retirement, Appleton has taken up managerial roles at Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn before finding himself at the Kassam Stadium with Oxford, where he has been lauded for bringing in a high-energy, attacking game built around young players.

The U’s are currently in the automatic promotion places in League Two, poised to make the final in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and made the FA Cup fifth round by shocking Swansea City, an established Premier League side.

These achievements have led to United apparently calling for Appleton’s services, with the youth system slowly being usurped by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.

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The under-18s are bottom of their division in the U18 Premier League while the side was thrashed 5-1 by Chelsea’s youngsters in the FA Youth Cup just last week in the presence of United manager Louis van Gaal and assistant manager Ryan Giggs.

Those results may be misleading as some of the players still eligible to play for the under-18s, such as Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and RoShaun Williams have all been called up to play for the under-21s under Warren Joyce, and as a result, Paul McGuinness has been forced to play first-year scholars and under-16 players.

But it does not disguise the fact that United are suffering from a lack of investment at youth level and changes are needed if the Red Devils are to maintain their reputation for developing world-class youngsters.