A long awaited decision was made by the Premier League on Friday for Manchester United’s under-23 team.
The under-23s were awarded promotion to top flight of the PL2 pyramid after a successful season.
United had sat in second place in the league and may have overtaken West Ham in first had the season been allowed to play out. United would have been favourites to go up via the play-offs if finished second.
This was reward for an impressive season in which United’s under-23s won 14 of 17 matches, drawing one and losing only two.
With 43 points amassed from 17 games, United were just three points back from first place and nine points clear of third place.
A better test
It is great to see the youngsters winning matches and this helps build their confidence and enhance their reputations.
But ultimately you want them to face the best of their peers and better prepare them for first team football.
United join Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City in the top flight, although this past season it was notably won by Derby County.
For the under-18 players poised to step up like Anthony Elanga and Charlie Wellens this will be a case of being dropped in at the deep end, while those who sailed through their first season like Teden Mengi and Hannibal Mejbri may find it not quite so easy going to begin with.
This is all part of the challenge. We want under-23 football to be testing, and it is a real bonus that the under-23s have been promoted.
Leads to interesting transfer decisions
United may now consider keeping some players who may have previously been considered for loan.
What United do not want is to field a totally inexperienced team and then be relegated down a division. Losing games regularly does not help anybody.
Players on the fringes like Matej Kovar, Arnau Puigmal, Ethan Galbraith, Dylan Levitt, and Ethan Laird may now all stay, when previously it seemed more likely they would head out on loan.
You could throw James Garner into that mix too, although he is further along in his development and a loan is more likely.
Keeping a player like Ethan Laird for this has a double boost. It means he remains available for first team selection, as opposed to being out on loan and he could make his Brandon Williams-style breakthrough.
Had United stayed in the bottom tier of the under-23 ladder, the club may have been more aggressive about pursuing loan moves for some of the players.
Instead this will be seen as a new challenge, and the players who stay have plenty to prove against their peers at rivals clubs, even before the lure of jumping to the first team is considered.
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