Manager – Ricky Sbragia
62-year-old Ricky Sbragia returned to his role as Man United boss in 2017 to replace Warren Joyce, the ruthless and brilliant Englishman who left to manage Melbourne City.
Sbragia had been the reserves team coach between 2002 and 2005, appointed by Sir Alex Ferguson from Sunderland’s first-team coaching staff. In that time, he guided United to glory in the Manchester Senior Cup, the Premier Reserve League North and the Premier Reserve League National Championship in 2005. Under his tutelage, most importantly, players such as Kieran Richardson and Darren Fletcher came through the reserves side to become first team players.
He left United to join Sam Allardyce’s coaching staff at Bolton Wanderers and then Sunderland, where he saved the Black Cats from Premier League relegation as caretaker manager.
The Scot resigned despite that feat and stayed on as a scout, before leading his country’s U17, U19 and U21 sides over a five-year spell lasting until 2016.
Since Sbragia joined, United’s under-23s have struggled, suffering relegation from Division 1 of Premier League 2. A major criticism that has been attributed to Sbragia to the lack of game plan currently seen in United’s style and performances. Players are still coming through, of course, but the argument is that Sbragia is limiting the speed of this and the growth of his players.
United have continued to put their faith in Sbragia after relegation. Youth football, after all, is not about results. But there are worries over Sbragia’s management.
Main league: Premier League 2
This competition replaced the under-21 Premier League (which United won on three occasions out of four seasons). It carried with it some changes to the format. Under-23 players are now eligible, while “each team can field a goalkeeper over the age limit and up to three ‘over-age’ outfield players in every match.”
Each side must also play at least three games at their main stadium, so there are usually three games at Old Trafford. These games are free for members and, usually, come at the end of the season or for big games such as the Manchester derby or the home fixture against Liverpool.
There are two divisions in Premier League 2, with 12 teams in each. United are in Division Two as of 2018/19. Two teams are relegated from Division One each season. The team that finish top of Division One are champions. That statement seems obvious, but some youth competitions see a “final” to decide who are champions.
Cup competition: Premier League International Cup
Manchester United entered this competition for the first time a couple of years ago, having declined offers of entry in past seasons.
“Twelve of England’s best academy sides compete against 12 of the top development squads in the rest of Europe in the Premier League International Cup.
“Teams competing in the PL International Cup will be made up of Under-23 players, aside from a maximum of three outfield players and the goalkeeper, who can be born before 1 January 1993. All matches are played in England.”
Manchester City, Villarreal and FC Porto are the only previous winners of the tournament, with the latter winning it in the last two years.
In 2018/19, Manchester United are in a very tough group with Derby County, Paris Saint-Germain and PSV Eindhoven.
Others: Manchester Senior Cup, Lancashire Senior Cup