With Manchester City’s world stars returning to the top of the Premier League on Sunday, it is worth remembering that they have a host of brilliant talents waiting for their chance to shine. From the U18s to the U23 Elite Development Squad, young sky blues are already showing that they want to emulate the passion and style of the senior squad.
Ben Golding speaks to @MCFCReserves&Academy for the low-down on City’s young stars in what was a resurgent February.
First of all, thanks for chatting to us! January seemed like quite a heavy month for the youth squads, with the EDS getting to the Checkatrade Quarter-Finals vs Sunderland and the U18s going the month unbeaten. What have been your match highlights from February?
It is fair to say that this question is not that difficult, as it boils down to two games both in cup competitions for the U18s!
The first came in the U18 Premier League Cup semi-final, where City faced local rivals and competition favourites Manchester United. Given United’s youth side had been unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Youth Cup by Brighton despite knocking the favourites Chelsea out in the previous round, the desire to win some silverware would have been strong.
However, they faced a City team that saw the availability of Felix Nmecha, who had served the final game of a three-game suspension the night earlier in a Premier League 2 defeat to Brighton. What a difference the young international player makes to any City youth team (as long as he stays focused and composed, as his previous suspension shows). The under-18s were able to walk out 3-0 victors, securing their place in the Premier League Cup final in comfortable fashion.
But Felix would not be able to do half the things he does without the great industry and delivery of Tommy Doyle in defensive midfield. Even if United got past Tommy, there was always Taylor Harwood-Bellis marshaling the back line, whilst the in-form Louie Moulden had great reactions and fantastic distribution in goal.
Felix’s two excellent finishes surrounded another well-worked goal from Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who enjoys operating in a midfield where he is regularly left unmarked due to Tommy and Felix having so much of the ball.
The other highlight would be the emphatic 4-1 demolition away at Bournemouth in the Youth Cup. The inclusion of some more EDS players made it a real uphill battle for the south coast team.
Right from the opening seconds, City were pressing down the Cherries throats and took an early lead through Nmecha. Perhaps the fact that they were finding the game so easy meant they switched off, allowing their opponents to score an equalizer.
Bournemouth’s goal led a bit of a charmed life until the break, but the Cherries were carved open quite comprehensively in the second half with three unanswered goals, leaving City to claim a place in the Youth Cup semi-finals.
Who have been your star performers? Is there anyone who might have eyes on the first team in the future?
I think the two standouts for both games have to be Tommy Doyle and Felix Nmecha. I think the latter has a real chance of playing some part of the Schalke or Swansea games given the injury issues within the senior squad.
What about the hidden gems? Might there be some players that deserve more attention?
I think the player that is having a fairly unnoticed season but has absolutely been top drawer is Jeremie Frimpong. He is a fullback that attackers will struggle to get beyond because of his pace, timing, and strength. His desire to get forward at every opportunity would make him an ideal Pep player!
What do the upcoming fixtures look like for the young Blues in March?
The U18s have three games, with two of those interestingly being away at Middlesbrough! The first is the all-important Premier League Cup final on the 14th of March, whilst the later fixture comes in the form of a league fixture. There will be no rest in between those games though – they have a home league fixture against title-challenging Liverpool!
On the other hand, the EDS have a very barren March. With only two games to play, both are being played in the first week of the month. Having already played in a narrow 1-0 home win against Leicester, an away fixture at arch youth rivals Chelsea awaits on Friday 8th.
Which ‘Big Match’ should we watch out for in March?
The standout games will be the final of the U18 PL cup away at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Thursday 14th and the yet-to-be-arranged home FA Youth Cup semi-final against West Brom.
Follow the author on Twitter here:@GoldingBen
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