Under-18 report | Man United 2-0 Wolves

Manchester United 2 (Ennis 43, McNeill 47) Wolves 0

A young Wolves under-18s side fell to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on Tuesday night at the AON Training Centre, despite a first-half display that was full of positives for head coach Steve Davis.

Having selected a side which gave starts to three schoolboys, including a second outing in four days for under-15 central defender Caden Voice, Davis was pleased with how his inexperienced line-up approached their game against a United team which featured several players who knocked Wolves out of the FA Youth Cup last month.

However, despite producing several chances without punishing the hosts during the opening 45 minutes, Wolves were handed a hammer blow just before the break when Ethan Ennis found the back of the net.

United came out rejuvenated in the second period, and added a second just two minutes later, as Charlie McNeill – who scored twice against Wolves in the Youth Cup semi-final at Old Trafford – doubled their advantage.

Wolves tired as the second-half progressed, leading Davis to reach to his bench in a bid to shuffle his pack, but with the hosts dominating possession and chances in the later stages, the young players in old gold we unable to strike back.


Despite the result, Davis was very pleased with the approach and effort his players put in against a much more experienced United side.

“Considering the team Man United put out – they were really strong and apart from a couple of players, it was more or less their FA Youth Cup team – we knew it was going to be a really tough game because of the young team we had,” Davis said.

“But I have to say that I thought we were the better team in the first-half. We played some really good football and competed really well, controlled large parts of the game, created several chances, but we didn’t really hit the target and test the keeper enough.

“We also limited them to few chances in the first-half, but we just couldn’t sustain the levels we had set ourselves in the second-half.”

On United capitalising

“Once we got tired, mistakes started creeping in and they capitalised on those, created more chances than they did in the first-half and we found it hard to get up the pitch and keep the ball with the lack of energy we had. I had to make one or two substitutions as some of the lads were tired from Saturdays game, because they’ve not really played a sequence of Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday games before so it caught up with a few of them.

“But generally, we worked well, competed really hard and showed the side of the game when you have to dig in and work through periods of the game when it’s not going for you and you’re not having as much of the ball.

“From my point of view, the positives were the first-half and how we started the game really strong and the game didn’t really faze us at all. We approached the game in a really positive way which I was really pleased with.”

On conceding just before half-time

“It was a big blow to the players because we didn’t deserve that. It was probably the only moment in the first-half where we did switch off and we didn’t get our defending and positioning right, but apart from that, we got everything right.

“It was disappointing to concede in the 43rd minute because I think it knocked us a little bit because we felt we’d had the better of the half and probably should’ve capitalised on one or two of the chances that we hit the target and tested the keeper from, and we deserved to get something from the first-half for all of our efforts.

“It was a bit of a blow to go in behind at half-time, but in the second-half, they made some changes and probably had a bit of a kick up the backside and they came out with much more purpose and we were put on the back foot straight from the start.”

On giving U18 experience to schoolboys

“I was really pleased because we had three schoolboys in that group, including ‘Voicy’ [Caden Voice] an under-15 at centre-back, and two under-16s with Mason [Rees] and Fabien [Reynolds] starting, while the bench was full of 15s and 16s, as well as a trialist.

“We knew at one stage we were going to have to make those substitutions and in the end, we had five or six of those players on the pitch, so it was always going to be tough in any game, but especially when you have young and inexperienced lads finding their feet and we’re still learning about them.

“It’s great to blood them young if we think they’re ready for the challenge, and it’s interesting to see how they cope with that challenge – playing against players who are older, stronger, fitter and better than they are, and have been around those age groups a lot longer. Quite a lot of the United team yesterday had played up in the under-23s and come back down, so it’s a good test for them to know what they’re going to face next year and even the year after.

“Those 15s and 16s who were in the squad last night will come into our programme full-time next season and they will get opportunities in the 18s, so I think it’s great to get them in now, rather than wait for them to come into it pre-season not knowing the standard of what they need to get to. They can see the targets and they can see what they need to do, so I think this experience they will get over the next few weeks is going to be invaluable.”


Due to their run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals, Wolves still have eight league matches left to play this season, meaning Davis’ side face two games a week during the next month. Firstly, the under-18s will travel to Middlesbrough this weekend, before hosting Liverpool at Aggborough Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

On facing two games a week for the next month

“It’s a great opportunity for the whole squad because some of those second-year scholars that aren’t playing for the under-23s but are still eligible for the under-18s can drop down and play as they still need to play games, while the first-year scholars are playing every game now and it’s a test for them in how they recover and a test of their professionalism in learning to replenish foods and fluids and their bodies ready for the next game.

“Then it’s good for the young schoolboys because we can rotate two or three them into the team and then back out again, because I don’t expect them to play twice a week at their age, but they will get opportunities. We’ve also got to be mindful of their physicality, for example, ‘Voicey’ has now played two on the bounce within three or four days, so he might be taken out on Saturday and somebody else can do that role because he won’t be able to fulfil three games in a week.

“We’ve also got Josh [Esen] observing Ramadan at the moment, so we’ve got to be careful with him as he’s not able to replenish his food and fluid as quickly as the others. We took him off after 60 minutes because he looked tired, which is what we expect, and it’s all about managing the different situations of different players and different ages. But this is how now until the end of the season is going to look.”


16/04 Middlesbrough (A)

19/04 Liverpool (H)

23/04 Leeds United (A)

27/04 Manchester United (H)

30/04 Burnley (A)


Man United: Hanbury, Aljofree, Murray, Jurado, Pye, Forson, Ennis (Hansen-Aaroen 60), Oyedele, Mather, Hugill (Norkett 60), McNeill.

Unused sub: Polakowski.

Wolves: Storer, Kaleta (Shahar 82), Voice, Mabete, Keto-Diyawa, Rees, Ojinnaka, Esen (Plank 66), Reynolds (Ashworth 70), Roberts, Farmer.

Unused subs: Amos, Salmon.