Kids keep feet on the ground af­ter taste of Euro life

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By DO­MINIC BOOTH

TRAV­EL­LING with United’s first team for their Europa League clash against As­tana last month didn’t come as a shock to the club’s young­sters.

That’s ac­cord­ing to United U23s man­ager Neil Wood, who has been tasked with keep­ing the six young se­nior debu­tants’ feet on the ground af­ter the eye-open­ing trip to Kazak­stan.

Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Laird, Dy­lan Le­vitt, Largie Ra­mazani, D’mani Mel­lor and Ethan Gal­braith all made their se­nior de­buts in the Europa League game, which United lost 2-1.

Four more teenagers – Matej Ko­var, Te­den Mengi, Ar­nau Puig­mal and Max Tay­lor – trav­elled with the squad but re­mained on the bench, with all but Le­vitt of the afore­men­tioned group play­ing for the U23s against West Brom at Leigh on Mon­day night.

The As­tana ex­pe­ri­ence has been a steep learn­ing curve for the young­sters, ad­mit­ted Wood.

“I think so,” he said af­ter the 3-1 vic­tory over the Bag­gies.

“They’ve had good ex­pe­ri­ence in the EFL Tro­phy this year too.

“I think that ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing against those first teams has helped them, so by the time they got to As­tana, they weren’t shocked by it. They were used to it.”

The U23s stretched their win­ning run to six games with a come­back vic­tory at Leigh Sports Vil­lage and showed the char­ac­ter that the club’s coach­ing staff are look­ing for.

Wood added: “I think it’s just build­ing on those [first team] games and when it comes to a game like this, you can see that even though they went 1-0 be­hind there’s a bit of char­ac­ter to get back and fight back. So that’s a pleas­ing sight.”

Wood dis­missed the no­tion that it might be tough to keep play­ers’ grounded af­ter they got a taste of first team ac­tion. The likes of Laird, Le­vitt and Ko­var have been reg­u­larly in­volved in first team train­ing and oc­ca­sional away trips this sea­son and Wood re­vealed all the United young­sters are ea­ger for more op­por­tu­ni­ties with Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer’s side.

“It’s not so much of a chal­lenge,” said Wood.

“They all want to play, so they’re all hun­gry and am­bi­tious. So if there’s a game avail­able to play at any level, they’ll play.

“We’re just try­ing to carry on what the first team are do­ing and have a sim­i­lar style, so once they go up there, they’re fully pre­pared and they can slot in and play that sys­tem.

“We’ll keep work­ing on that, that’s our goal.”

United’s Ethan Laird was in the Reds squad for the trip to As­tana

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