In the shadow of it’s senior team, Manchester United’s youth team have been performing consistently well in the FA WSL Academy League.
The youth team have impressed with their displays, with many young stars shining through, something which bodes very well for the future.
Here are six players that we think might have a chance of breaking through into the senior team in the coming season.
One player that has raised eyebrows and caught attention throughout her early career is 16-year-old Maria Edwards. The striker has had stints on both sides of Manchester having become the top scorer for her age bracket between 2013 and 2015, racking up an absolutely astonishing 70 goals in just 24 games. She joined United’s Regional Talent Centre (RTC) before switching back to the blue side of the city where she scored a memorable hat-trick at Under-16 level for City in the final of the FA Youth Cup against Reading at St George’s Park. The youngster recently returned to United and she has since made her England Under-17 debut against Croatia before going on to feature twice more for her country, scoring two goals across three games.
Edwards made her unofficial debut for the Manchester United first team during their pre-season friendly in Norway against Valerenga last summer, while she took her place amongst the substitutes for the fixture against Arsenal at the start of this season. Although she has failed to register any minutes in a senior shirt, she has impressed at Under-21 level, scoring over 20 goals this season. Edwards is one of the most promising youngsters in English football with skill and ability far beyond her age. She plays in the number 10 role with great ability to not only score goals but to act as a playmaker when needed. Edwards also excels in boxing as she holds the accolade of being twice crowned National Schools Boxing Champion for 2016 and 2017. United boss Casey Stoney will surely look towards the youngster in the future and hopefully will give her time to impress amongst her seniors.
Another juvenile star looking to feature for The Red Devil at senior level is Tara Bourne, who plays as an attacking midfielder for the Under-21s side. She previously resided at Liverpool before making the move to Manchester United. The attacking midfielder breaks with strength and power and has gained many assists as well as goals so far this season.
Like Edwards, she featured also for England at Under-17 level, playing in friendlies against the USA earlier this year. Bourne is one for the big occasion, she scored as The Reds ran out 3-0 victors over arch rivals Manchester City earlier this season. She is no doubt on track to continue to progress towards making her debut for the senior side.
Another player with pace, that makes light work of defenders, is winger Fran Stables. She posses a sheer amount of pace which unlike many in her trade, she can also match with skill which she uses to her advantage when taking on defenders. Stables has an abundance of assists to her name including goalscoring, she has a reputation for shooting with some power. One of the player’s career highlights so far was a hat-trick in the FA Youth Cup fixture against York City last year. The teenager has also previously been on the scoresheet for her national team as England Under-17s thumped Georgia 8-0 in Hungary in a UEFA Women’s U17 elite round qualifier in March 2019. After starring on the youth stage, Stables’ senior Manchester United debut may not be all that far away.
Poppy Lawson is definitely one to watch out for. Lawson is not just a centre-back but also the current Manchester United Under-21s captain. She is a natural born leader, who excels in her position. She owns great strength and power with a superb football mind that can break up attacks before they come into fruition. She is calm when in possession of the ball and has the capacity to bring the ball out of defence with a perfect pass. The youngster is committed to success, having missed her high school prom to play in the Under-16 Nordic Tournament for England. Her leadership skills are second to none, her coaches have previously spoke about her ‘strong character with the ability to influence others in a positive way’ as she ‘continues to set herself high targets.’ One thing that is certain is that we can expect to see Lawson on the seniors team sheet one day soon.
A player who is on track for success who has already featured once for the senior side is Rebecca May. She came off bench in United’s away fixture against Reading and she almost scored the winner with a superb curling shot. The 18-year-old came on and played with such confidence and she looked at home amongst senior players. The midfielder oozes class with every touch on the ball. Like fellow academy star Stables, May also featured in England Under-17s defeat of Georgia in their UEFA Women’s U17 elite round qualifier. She has also recently been selected in the Under-19s squad for the La Manga Tournament alongside another United colleague in the form of Edwards. The pair have forged a strong bond both on and off the pitch as also study together at Wigan & Leigh College as they work towards BTEC Level 3 qualifications in Sports and Sports Science.
The final youngster to keep tabs on is Chloe Williams, who joined United from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Williams is an exceptional talent who has regularly featured for Wales at various youth levels. The midfielder has a real chance of breaking into the Welsh senior squad in the near future. At club level, Williams featured on the bench in United’s 2-0 victory over rivals Manchester City in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup but unfortunately failed to make an appearance. The midfielder possesses such skill and ability to not only control an attack but also to defend well and could be one to watch in the not so distant future.
It will be fascinating to see which youngsters move up into the senior squad when the time is right. United boss Stoney could opt to initially send some of the club’s young blood out on loan to gain further experience. Manchester United are a club who invest in youth and there are sure to be some fresh faces in the senior side in the coming years.