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Manchester United v Brighton & Hove Albion: Premier League 2

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Fan Focus: Man Utd fan Óskar says Joe Hugill has “progressed like a rocket” since leaving SAFC!

Ahead of Sunderland’s EFL Trophy tie tonight, we spoke to Manchester United fan Óskar to discuss Joe Hugill and Logan Pye’s progress, as well as their re-signing of Paul McShane!

Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Manchester United Under-23s were narrowly beaten 3-2 by Lincoln, before thrashing Bradford 3-0 away from home - are pleased with their performance so far in this tournament?

Óskar: We have a very young side this year and are inexperienced. There are 11 players out on loan from that age group and about 15 players left that are over 18. So it was no surprise we started badly against Lincoln in the first game. We played well, but mistakes cost us, but we had a great end to the game and almost rescued a draw.

The second game went very well and was a good performance. So the coaches must be very pleased so far, even though there are quite a few thinks to work on as expected.


MC: The addition of reserve sides to this competition came with a high level of backlash, do you think it is beneficial to have elite academy’s youth sides involved?

O: The backlash to the addition of reserves sides to the competition was very understandable. Not least because of the discussion of the big teams having reserve sides in the League is in many eyes linked and would be an existential threat to quite a few League sides.

From the elite academies' point of view, it is a great chance to give youngsters an opportunity to play matches on League grounds with crowd pressure against senior sides with games that matter.

It’s good for their progression and also gives them the opportunity of learning to play senior football that playing regular u-23 football does not give them. It’s also a chance for players to show that they are ready to go on loan, both to their coaches and also to scouts of other clubs watching.

It´s a chance that sometimes can be given to a select few in a League Cup game against lower league opposition with senior players playing with them and against, but that depends on the draw in the cup if it is possible to give some young guns a chance in that cup.


MC: Former Sunderland defender Paul McShane was re-signed to play with United’s reserve side this season, can you see the logic behind bringing in experience to help young players?

O: Yes, I can see the logic behind bringing him as a player for that group as well as a coach. This year the group of centre-backs is very low in numbers as well as experience.

Mengi and Hardley are the only centre-backs in the age group that are not on loan and Mengi was supposed to go out on loan as well. By having McShane there he can give the team and the individual players help during games that is priceless. I expect the players to progress faster because of the experience. It is like the Reserves used to be.

Bradford City v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy
Paul McShane joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Rochdale in the summer.
Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

MC: The likes of Shola Shoretire broke into the Manchester United first team last season - who are the main players that Sunderland will have to be wary of?

O: Hannibal would be the first to mention, but he is suspended. He has been good, but having trouble with his temper and not being protected by the referees.

Dillon Hoogewerf has some very good games and is dangerous, but can be hot and cold, so we will see how well he’ll do. Teden Mengi is an excellent centre back, but needs to back on loan after being with Derby last season.

Matej Kóvar is an excellent goalkeeper who has kept a clean sheet in his last seven games for club and country. Charlie McNeill and Joe Hugill have been scoring and are a threat. It’s hard to see who will play because I’m not sure who has returned from playing with their country.

So, it will be an extra young side. Alvaro Fernandez is a left back from Real Madrid that has been very impressive going forward, but is dodgy defending. He might play though as a winger.


MC: United signed duo Joe Hugill and Logan Pye from Sunderland - how have the duo performed since joining the club?

O: Both players have done really well.

Hugill has progressed like a rocket and was under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s radar last season after his fast start that resulted in him skipping the u-18s and jumping straight into the u23s. He performed wonderfully, scoring a lot. He has had his share of injuries, especially at the start of the season and I think he would have started the pre-season with the first team if not injured, before going back to the u-23s after the players came back from the Euros. He has had a slow start this season, was put back in the u18s and scored a hat-trick in his only game and is hopefully now back in full confidence.

Pye did well his first season in the u18s, got injured in February and got back in the pre-season, but is now again seemingly injured so hopefully he can be back on track and pushing for a promotion to the u23s.


MC: 23-year-old goalkeeper Paul Woolston was released by Sunderland before spells with Newcastle and now Manchester United, is he close to returning from injury?

O: Woolston has been injured since January and there is no news on him being back to training. But he is a huge Sunderland supporter!

Manchester United v Villarreal - UEFA Youth League - Group F - Leigh Sports Village
Hugill has scored 11 goals in 26 appearances for Manchester U23s and 9 goals in 7 matches for the U18s.
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Who are the eleven players that you expect Neil Wood to select against Sunderland?

O: Because of the internationals many will be away, but some are back.

I expect the team to be something like: Mee (GK), Wellens, McShane, Hardley, Fernandez, Savage, Iqbal, Hoogewerf, McNeill, Emeran, Hugill.

If back from the internationals Shoretire, Elanga, Kóvar and Svidersky should play, but I doubt they will.


MC: Can we expect to face the fast attacking football that Manchester United’s first team are known for?

O: This is a young side, so they will most likely not dominate the game, but in parts they will play fast attacking football and give great effort. Looking forward to watching the game, to see the next generation in meaningful games is always exciting. Often the games I look most forward to watch.


MC: Lastly, which team do you think is going to take pole position to qualify for the next round?

O: This game should go a long way to determine who will go through. I expect Sunderland to beat Bradford, so a draw would then be enough for Sunderland in this game to be favourites to go through.

United needs a win to have a chance to top the group. I would never bet against my team, even though the recent history of the competition shows that a Football League side that takes it seriously is always a favourite to win it, as Sunderland did last year. May the best team win and progress!

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