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Wednesday 14 May 2014

BU21PL profile: Man United on brink of successful title defence

A profile of Manchester United's U21s ahead of Wednesday's final v Chelsea

  • Saidy Janko plays in a style similar to Antonio Valencia

  • James Wilson is the top scorer for United's Under-21s

  • Ben Pearson, right, is a tenacious box-to-box midfielder for United

  • United will be looking to retain the Barclays Under-21 Premier League title they won last year

Manchester United

Ahead of Manchester United’s Barclays Under-21 Premier League final against Chelsea at Old Trafford, Adam Marshall, contributing editor at gives a profile of the side, who are defending the title won last May.

Leading appearances
19 Reece James
18 Charni Ekangamene
17 Guillermo Varela

Leading scorers
7 James Wilson
6 Jesse Lingard
3 James Weir, Larnell Cole

Barclays Under-21 Premier League play-off semi-final result
Manchester United (Pereira) 1-0 Liverpool

4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1

Usual style of play
James Wilson leads the line with two holding midfielders and an emphasis on width, especially on the right with Saidy Janko and Guillermo Varela doubling up down that side.

Team's strengths
They have a very high workrate with much stamina. Warren Joyce has got them to be well organised, especially defensively, and are very quick on the ball. Andreas Pereira, scorer of the only goal in the semi-final win over Liverpool, sometimes offers some magic to complement the hard work of the team.

Team's weakness
A dependency on Wilson to get the goals can result in a lack of cutting edge. We can dominate matches but sometimes not create as many chances as possession would suggest.

The manager
Warren Joyce is a former player for Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley and Hull City in the Football League in the 1980s and 1990s. He took over as sole coach of the reserves, then the Under-21 side in 2010, having coached for two years alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Last season, he guided the team to success in the inaugural Barclays Under-21 Premier League, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final. He has been assisted by another former United legend Nicky Butt this season who is also helping interim first-team manager Ryan Giggs.

Three players to watch

James Wilson (18, forward)
Wilson has led the line admirably this season, top-scoring with seven in the league. The England Under-19 international is lightning quick and has continued his habit of playing in teams in advance of his years by featuring mainly for the Under-21s while still eligible for the Under-18s, after pushing his way into the team in December.

His form for the U21s was such that he won a place on the first-team bench for the Barclays Premier League trip to Newcastle United last month, and then scored twice on his full debut in the 3-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Hull City.

Ben Pearson (19, midfielder)
A talent in the middle of the park, largely as a holding midfielder, Pearson joined the club 10 years ago and has worked his way through the ranks. He is good at going box-to-box and putting his foot in, which can upset referees, as well as creating play. He started in last year's final v Tottenham Hotspur.

Saidy Janko (18, defender/midfielder)
Signed from FC Zurich on deadline day in August last year, the Switzerland Under-19 international can play right-back or right-wing. For the Under-21s this powerful player, whose style resembles Antonio Valencia, has performed largely the latter, teaming up with Guillermo Varela to threaten the left flank of opponents.

He has been nominated for the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award, won by Adnan Januzaj last year, along with Reece James and Charni Ekangamene.

Under-21 players to have featured for the first team
Adnan Januzaj, James Wilson, Tom Lawrence

21 Mar 2014 Previous BU21PL meetings this season
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea

Barclays Under-21 Premier League final
Manchester United v Chelsea, 7.45pm, Old Trafford (live on Sky Sports 1)

All supporters can gain free access to the match by texting UNDER21 FINAL to 60777.

Final Barclays Under-21 Premier League table (top)

Chelsea 21 13 5 3 23 44
Liverpool 21 13 3 5 25 42
Man United 21 11 6 4 16 39
Man City 21 12 2 7 22 38

Find out the full Barclays U21 Premier League fixture list here and view the table here.

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL

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Key Points

  • Barclays Under-21 Premier League finalists Manchester United in profile
  • Warren Joyce's team take on Chelsea at Old Trafford on Wednesday night
  • United are defending the title they won last season