Paul McGuinness’ Under-18s will kick-off a derby weekend on Saturday, as they host local rivals Manchester City at the J. Davidson Stadium in the Under-18 Premier League.
The youngsters will meet just 25 hours before the first-team’s colossal clash with the Citizens, in the Red Devils’ fourth outing at the Altrincham venue. With two victories and a draw ensuring United remain unbeaten at their newer stadium, McGuinness will be hoping his side can continue their form to get the Reds off to a winning weekend.
As United prepare for a fight for top spot in the top flight division, which features six other teams, they have currently taken four points from two fixtures. And with free entry for all spectators, McGuinness is aiming for a respectable attendance prior to the clash at Old Trafford the following day.
The last meeting between the two youth side ended in a tantalising 5-2 victory for United, and the manager is expecting an entertaining performance once again from his side.
“Every game we’ve had has been a better match than playing here [at the Aon Training Complex],” he said. “It’s more intense and more like a first-team match because it’s closer to it with the surroundings, the stadium, coming out of the tunnel, and all those things help to make it more like a proper Football League match.
“That’s why we’ve done it again really. We’ve already played City at the training ground and it makes it a different game for all those reasons. We want to get the guys closer to replicating first-team football.
“Who knows but I quite like the idea of a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday. We’ve not done that before and it’s not normal in youth football but, again, it means we’re closer to men’s senior football and maybe we’ll get a few people in to watch at that time. It would be nice to have fans from both clubs in the ground.
“There has not been massive advance notice for the game but we’re still hoping for a good turn-out. We might look at doing the same thing for the Chelsea game as well but the other ones we’ve had at Altrincham – Wolves, Newcastle and Liverpool – were really sharp games so I’m hoping it ends up something like that again. It is a play-off game and deserves a bit more status.”
A number of theatrical victories for the Reds saw them qualify comfortable for the elite group, and having proved their worth in the second half of the season, a win at West Bromwich Albion, followed by a draw with Aston Villa, sees their penultimate home game allow them the opportunity to close the gap on current league leaders Middlesbrough – who have currently played two extra matches.
However, Manchester City will be no easy task after recently cruising into the FA Youth Cup final, which could admittedly put pressure on the fitness of some of the younger players in the Blues’ ranks. Nonetheless, McGuinness is solely focused on his side, adding:
“We came on strong against Villa and it’s been a feature in some of our games where we’ve come back well and kept going until the end. We’ve scored late goals very much in the United tradition and want to keep that going. We’ve got a good team spirit and, by the end, some teams have been hanging on against us.
“I did say at the beginning of the season it was a difficult start because we had no forward players. They were out for a little bit and we also had a lot of schoolboys involved. It’s a big jump for them but they’ve adapted. Everybody has improved as they’ve gone on and I said this team would get better after Christmas. They have kept improving and it’s what you want to see, development of the players, and these last five games are a nice challenge for them now.
“We’re simulating a run-in to the title and there is more pressure on both sets of players. It’s not just a normal Under-18 game as now it’s about how you manage that thinking when you’re clearly under pressure and how you manage your emotions and setbacks and so on when it all means a bit more.”
Manchester United are one of only three teams remaining unbeaten in Group 1 this season.