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Nick Cox praises Erik ten Hag for providing ‘invaluable’ experience for Man United youngsters on eve of Under-18 Cup final… with academy chief highlighting Kobbie Mainoo as an example to follow for the next generation

Nick Cox leans back in his chair to think for a moment before answering how important the win is to Manchester United’s Under-18 Premier League North title.

“I won’t be successful in my role if I have a shelf full of trophies, no one will care in the long term,” said Cox, United’s academy director. Sports Mail.

“I will be defined by the number of young players we support to reach their full potential, playing in our first team or playing in all the leagues. We have a brilliant history in this area.

“We currently have an excellent record among the boys in the first team, historically too. That’s what will define us.

Cox only had to look at the team sheet at Wembley on Sunday to see the fruits of his labor and that of all the other coaches and key figures at the academy.

A host of Man United academy products have broken into the first team. Pictured: Ethan Wheatley (third from left), Harry Amass, Louis Jackson and Habeeb Ogunneye

Academy chief Nick Cox wants aspiring youngsters to take Kobbie Mainoo as an example

Academy chief Nick Cox wants aspiring youngsters to take Kobbie Mainoo as an example

Nine academy graduates in the squad – Kobbie Mainoo, Alejandro Garancho, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford in the starting line-up and five youngsters, including young centre-back Louis Jackson in the first team for the first time, on the bench.

None of Jackson, Harry Amass, Habeeb Ogunneye or Ethan Wheatley would make it, but nonetheless, the path to seeing a 250th academy graduate reach the first team is closer than ever.

For now, and this may include the aforementioned quartet, the focus is on Tuesday night’s Premier League Cup final at Leigh Sports Village against Manchester City.

Cox, who will be among many of United’s key staff in attendance, wants a full house and wants the players to feel the pressure of wearing a United shirt.

Both Mainoo and Garnacho showed how well they handled pressure on the biggest stages after college.

“I want the boys to play in front of crowds; I want the boys to play against the best opponents; I want the boys to feel the pressure,” Cox says.

“I want the boys to be in the spotlight because they will need to be able to survive in what I believe is the most incredible sporting arena in the world, which is the Premier League and Old Trafford.”

Mainoo heads to his car after working out moments before this interview with Cox. He is relaxed as he checks his phone before pulling out of his parking space.

On the pitch, he seems just as calm. Calmness, however, is no accident in Mainoo’s playing.

Mainoo was very well educated to deal with high pressure situations when he was young.

Mainoo was very well educated to deal with high pressure situations when he was young.

Now 19 and in the first team, he has become indispensable to United manager Erik ten Hag.

Now 19 and in the first team, he has become indispensable to United manager Erik ten Hag.

“I think you’ve seen Kobbie Mainoo cope very well in difficult environments, haven’t you?” Cox continues.

“In the Champions League games in Turkey, he played at Wembley for England and at Old Trafford against Liverpool. You watch and think: ‘should he be able to cope with these things at this age?’

“But if you go through his journey you will see that at the age of 12 we took him to America where he played in a big tournament and he was the best player and it was expected that he wins. We took him to other tournaments along the way, but then you would have seen him play the FA Youth Cup final in front of 65,000 people.

“I think it’s no surprise, OK, so he hadn’t really seen what it was like to play at Old Trafford against Liverpool, but he felt something like that before and he knew he could make it out.

“Our job is to build boys’ resilience by gradually exposing them to environments that stretch them, challenge them and stress them a little, so that when they’re in this world where they have to win, they have plenty of reference points that they can draw on that will remind them that they can cope, that they have coped and that they will cope. Kobbie is a great example.

Composure is one of the key factors why first-team boss Erik ten Hag, who is fully aware of the progress of emerging talents at the club, did not hesitate to call on him .

“He has been incredibly supportive of our program and our players,” Cox said, while Ten Hag recently greeted the under-18s after their title win, reaching out to walk around and shake their hands.

“I’m not sure, but I would say he was appointed because of his background or one of the reasons he was the leading candidate would be because he had a history of player development and I think every Manchester United manager has done it. You have to know how to win but you have to know how to stick to our values ​​of integrating young people into a winning first team.

Harry Amass (right) is seen as one of the under-18s who could be next to break through

Harry Amass (right) is seen as one of the under-18s who could be next to break through

“What people don’t see is the number of boys who work with him on a daily basis to support training, not necessarily the group we’ve talked about here in the 18s, but the 21s have a very close group . connection and boys who will help the team prepare on a weekly basis.

“It’s invaluable in terms of the learning and education of our young players, to have the opportunity to go and train some of the best players in the world, some of the most successful players in the world just fosters and accelerates even more their development It is an excellent ingredient that money cannot buy.

Since Kieran McKenna led the under-18s, this age group has failed to step up and win their title. So the chance to complete a league and cup double, before a domestic final against the Premier League South champions at the end of the season, offers the chance to end the campaign on a high.

The academy and next generation of stars are part of the fabric of Old Trafford and the fan base, many of whom are eager to spot the next talent who could crack Ten Hag’s first team.

Those wishing to attend the final on Tuesday can do so with free tickets online.

“I hope we can fill Leigh Sports Village,” Cox concludes. “I think it will be a really nice atmosphere if we can get both home and away spectators into the stadium. And there are several reasons why I hope the fans will leave.

Wheatley (right) recently joined the group as Ten Hag continues to lead the way

Wheatley (right) recently joined the group as Ten Hag continues to lead the way

“Firstly, I want them to create an environment that feels like a first-team game, that feels like there’s a bit of play going on, because that’s how our fans can support our kids’ development If one of our boys continues to play in the first team, our supporters will be able to say that he has played his part.

“The other is I just want to be a memorable night for the boys. I want the children to have memorable evenings and if there is a big crowd and noise it will make the evening even more special. I still think it’s nice for the fans.

“I tend not to talk about the individuals who I think are on their way to our first team, but I think the fans love going and watching the games and choosing who they will come back to play for the first team and when they will debut, it’s always a nice feeling of “Yeah, I was there when…” I still think it’s a lot of fun.”

Tickets for the Premier League Cup Final at Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday April 23 are available HERE.

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