Two late goals at the King Power stadium saw Manchester City overcome Leicester City to reach the FA Youth Cup final. Unfortunately for the first team, an upset at home to Middlesbrough saw them crash out of the senior competition long before the final. A 3-0 victory at home followed by a 2-1 victory away ensured the junior Blues reached the final with ease to face a Chelsea side who ran out 5-4 aggregate winners against Tottenham Hotspur. City are looking to win their first final since academy graduate Ben Mee, now of Burnley, lifted the trophy back in 2008. Whilst this is set up to be a big night for these future Blues, it is just an insight to how successful and exciting the youth team at Manchester City really are.
In a week where the young Blues reached the youth FA Cup final, the City under-15 squad were victorious in Menorca, overcoming a Barcelona side in the final on penalties to win the MeCup. The Blues played in a five-day tournament filled with European teams and twice won via a penalty shoot-out. Furthermore, the future looks bright throughout all age groups as four age groups jetted around the world for Easter tournaments with all of them reaching the semi-final or final.
Whilst City’s under-18 team have been successful and exceeded all expectations, it is City’s Elite Development Squad (EDS) who have attracted a large following this year from the exciting talent that is on show in that team. Performing well in their domestic league, sitting just above mid-table, the EDS team have also progressed in the UEFA Youth League this year, topping their group including Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Roma, scoring 22 goals and only conceding four, whilst remaining unbeaten. City then overcame a strong Schalke side on penalties before being knocked out unexpectedly in the quarter-final to the same Roma side they beat twice in the group stages with an aggregate scoreline of 6-1 across the two ties.
Whilst exceeding expectations in the competition, this platform allowed the future stars of the City team to show what they can do on the pitch and they gained quite a following in the process. The EDS team is filled with exceptionally talented young players. Spanish left-back Angelino has become a fan favourite and is a key player in the team. An attacking left-back who bombs forward, his combination of no-nonsense defending, attacking prowess and an ability to deliver balls with such pace and precision makes him an asset to any team. Any doubt over the left-back’s ability should be swiftly disregarded after the Spaniard scored a hat-trick in their 4-2 win over Leicester in the u-21 Premier League.
Whilst boasting bags of talent in the youth ranks, Manchester City have a number of EDS players out on loan. Belgian defender Jason Denayer is currently on loan at Celtic for whom he starts most games. The big Belgian last week made his international debut against Israel and has received rave reviews since his arrival in Glasgow with many tipping him to make an impact on the Premier League next year. Two Manchester-born defenders are also on loan: Greg Leigh is producing solid performances for Crewe Alexandra; Shay Facey is working hard for City’s sister club New York City FC. Things are looking good for Manchester City in terms of defenders.
In midfield, the EDS team is packed with players that have undeniable talent. Captain Kean Bryan commands the centre of midfield, consistently being a key man for the team whilst his tiresome work goes unnoticed as the goal scoring players get the plaudits. Pairing up in the middle with Bryan is the beast that is Olivier Ntcham.
Parisian born, the young Frenchman is an explosive talent, being able to impose his strength in the middle with a matched technical ability not often seen in such dominating players. Similar to his manager Patrick Vieira and much like Yaya Toure, Ntcham is a strong, powerful player whose efforts have been recognised after captaining the French under-16s and playing in the under-18 side.
Bersant Celina, as well as being an integral part of the under-18 and EDS sides, has made his mark on the under-21s. His composure and technical ability make him a likely future star in the first team. On the left of City’s midfield is Brandon Barker. The young blue has gained the attention of everyone this year with his goal scoring record. He has a fantastic ability to run at defenders and beat them with pace and skill and this, combined with his composed finishing, means that he will have a part to play in the City first team in the near future.
Many midfielders are out on loan. Sinan Bytiqi and George Evans are currently plying their trade at Cambuur and Scunthorpe respectively whilst Seko Fofana continues to impress at Fulham. City’s most likely prospect to break through from midfield is Marcos Lopes, currently on loan at Lille. He is swiftly becoming one of the French team’s key players, and he is almost a carbon copy of David Silva. His technical ability is a joy to behold and his range of passing is a pleasure to watch. Another great asset of his is that he is able to beat defenders with ease.
City have myriad exciting attacking players. Jose Angel Pozo is one that many City fans have known about for a while. He has made a handful for appearances for the first team and even managed to score in the Capital One Cup this year. It won’t be long before these sporadic appearances become more regular.
Frenchman Thierry Ambrose is catching the attention of many. Compared to compatriot and namesake Thierry Henry, the young striker has scored countless goals for the Blues this year. His ability to beat players with pace and strength makes him another vital cog in the well-oiled machine of Patricks Vieira’s EDS side. Two loanee strikers, Devante Cole and Jordy Hiwula, have both impressed at youth level and are now working to break through to the first team with performances at MK Dons and Walsall.
Whilst the main focus will always be on the City first team, the British media and fans alike should take more time to watch the flourishing Academy. Even if only a small number manage to make it through to the first team, there is certainly a bright blue future for Manchester City.