Manchester United decide not to release any Under-19 players

:Headline: Manchester United decide not to release any Under-19 players: ID:409466: from db_amp
Club say they are aware of challenges faced by young players.

Manchester United academy chief Nick Cox believes young people have "never faced such a difficult time" and underlined the club's duty of care in helping players cope with the impact of Covid-19.

While the first-team prepare to jet off to Germany for the Europa League on the back of their third-placed Premier League finish, life is more uncertain and unsettling for those trying to progress through the ranks.

United's Under-23 team did not even know what division they would be playing in until Thursday, when they were promoted to the top division of PL2 on a points-per-game basis following last season's abrupt ending.

Neil Wood's second-string and the Under-18s have only recently been able to get back to training, while those below the youth team have yet to return to the field as this challenging, coronavirus-shaped period continues.

Head of academy Cox is acutely aware of the strain this is putting on young people, leading United to decide that no player under the age of 19 will be released due to the unique circumstances brought by the coronavirus situation.

"We took the decision, whilst people were on lockdown, that it just wasn't right to release kids from the programme – and actually that we've got a role to play in the recovery," he told the PA news agency.

"And I don't say recovery lightly. There's going to be a recovery process here. People have been through trauma. Different people, different levels of trauma.

"Some people won't have been affected too much. Some people have had a really difficult period of time.

"And then once we're back to some familiar ground, we can start to think about 'what does the world look like from here on?' from a football development point of view.

"But slow and steady is the answer right now. I think we all have a duty to look after young people, who have never faced such a difficult time. Full stop. Ever."

Cox said the lockdown period was one of "crisis management" and making sure all connected to the club were being looked out for, with "football on the backburner" as they put "mental health to the top of the list of priorities".

"Absolutely football was on the agenda," he said. "But higher up the agenda was wellbeing, particularly for our younger players.

"We didn't bombard people with regimented home programmers and 'do X amount of press-ups' and 'run this distance' and 'do these drills'.

"We took the approach of just being a useful support network for players and their families.

"Being there if they needed us, giving them information on a regular basis, providing them with useful distractions, challenges that they can engage with, tasks that they could complete if they wanted to.

"And really encouraging them to be creative and to spend their time in a positive fashion through a really difficult period of time."

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