YOUTHFor this article, I thought I would look at the 3 players who I think have improved the most over the current season for the U-18 team. It’s been a disappointing season in the main but that can partly be put down to the fact that a lot of this year’s crop are either first year apprentices or even U-16 players who have had to move up an age group when U-18 players have been selected for the U-21, either to cover for players gone out on loan or on current form.

It’s not been easy to pick out 3 players as few have had stand out seasons or have missed games for a variety of reasons.

However, my first pick is Sean Goss. He had been at Exeter since his junior school days and joined United when he was a guest player for United in the Aegon Future Cup in Amsterdam in 2012 and impressed enough to be offered a contract.

His main position is central midfield although he did play at left back in the UEFA Youth League games.
He has a quite laid back, casual style when on the ball, which has caused many to liken him to Michael Carrick. My opinion is that he is much more of a box-to-box player than Carrick but does possess that ability to always look as though he has time on the ball. He has an excellent shot on him, which he could use more often, but he does chip in with the odd goal here and there.

He is one of those silky type of players who look graceful as they spray passes about and has caught the eye of many of the fans at Youth games.

Next season, I would be looking for him to get games in the U-21s and see how he handles that big step up. A decent prospect in the making.

Next is a boy who hasn’t yet played many games for the U-18s as he started the season in the U-16s. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is a very stylish central defender although he played at left back too.

He has represented England at Schoolboy level and it’s easy to see why. He is predominately left footed but isn’t afraid of tacking or passing with his right. He is tall and slim and reads the game excellently, which is his main strength. He is much more of a Ferdinand than a Vidic although he does tackle well when needed. He is a good passer of the ball who doesn’t panic in possession and often brings the ball out of the defence before laying off the ball to the midfield men. Even though he has only made a handful of U-18s games to his name, he has already played for the U-21s at the tender age of 16!

I really like the look of him and I am already looking forward to seeing him play next season.
My last choice is goalkeeper Joel Castro Pereira, no relation to Andreas Pereira in the U-21s. He is a joint Swiss and Portuguese national who had a spell at Neuchetal Xamax before impressing on a trial and offered a place at United.

On the occasions I saw him in the 2012-2013 season, he looked very shaky, not comfortable at all from crosses and very nervous all round.

Last season, he has transformed himself into an altogether different player. Now, he dominates his area, letting the defenders know he is coming for the ball, something he wasn’t doing last season. He has always been a very good shot stopper and has pulled off some blinding saves. But it’s his all round game that has improved dramatically.

The fact that he has grown and put more bulk on has obviously helped him in the hurly burly moments of the game but the extra weight hasn’t hampered his mobility at all.

For a big man, he gets down well for low shots or crosses and his handling is so much better this season.
It’s going to be difficult for him as and when he steps up an age group as the U-21s already have 3 keepers in Amos (an over-age player) Sam Johnstone and Pierluigi Gollini. Getting games will be his next big hurdle.

These three players may, or may not, be the top three players of the season but to me, they are the most improved and that’s what I look for in young players. It’s no use dominating as an 18-year-old if they don’t improve season by season so I will be looking for these three to kick on again next term.

This article was taken from the RoM season review.