The Premier League have announced an exciting new Under-23 competition that will replace the Under-21 Premier League from 2016/17.
With a greater focus on a level of play in terms of technicality, physicality and intensity the aim is to bring players as close to first-team experience as is possible.
The age limit for players has risen from Under-21 to Under-23.
The new age limit is for players born after 1 January 1993, although each team can still field an older goalkeeper and three over-age outfield players in every match.
The league will take on the same format of its predecessor of two tiers, Division 1 and Division 2, with 12 teams in each.
United, guided by Warren Joyce will be in Division 1 alongside Arsenal, Chelsea, Derby, Everton, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City, Reading, Southampton, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur.
Teams will play each other home and away over the course of a 22-game season with the bottom two clubs being relegated to Division 2. The second-tier winners gain automatic promotion with the sides ranked second, third, fourth and fifth competing in a play-off for the second available slot.
The 24 clubs who compete each applied for ‘Category One’ status in the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP).
There are 15 clubs from the Premier League and 9 clubs from the Championship.
All players born after 1 January 1993 for the 2016/17 season are eligible to play, and the format stays as follows:
- There are 12 teams in Division 1 and 12 in Division 2, with every club playing each other once at home and once away.
- In Division 1, the team who finish first are champions.
- The bottom two teams in Division 1 get relegated to Division 2.
- In Division 2, the league winners get automatic promotion to Division 1.
- Teams ranked second, third, fourth and fifth go into a promotion play-off.
- Second plays fifth place at home and third hosts fourth in the semi-finals, both at the club’s main stadium, while the final takes place at the home ground of the team who finished highest in the league.
- All play-off matches are one-off ties, decided by extra-time and then penalties if the match is level after 120 minutes.
- There is no relegation from Division 2
Other rules include:
- Each team can field a goalkeeper over the age limit and up to three ‘over-age’ outfield players in every match.
- Each club must host at least three league matches at their main stadium during the course of the season, which helps to enhance the matchday experience for the players and fans.
- Member clubs’ training grounds or Academy venues will be permitted for the staging of up to three home matches over the course of the league season.
Manchester United go into the 2016/17 campaign as champions in three of the U21 Premier League’s four seasons.
The increase in age limit will allow United to blood some of its most promising youngsters in what should be an entertaining competition. With the first team competing in the Europa League, players like Weir, Harrop and Sean Goss will be looking to put in performances that catch Jose Mourinho’s eye in the hope they can earn a call up to the first team squad.
The alteration in the age limit restrictions will also mean that first team squad players such as Shaw, Bailly, Depay, Rashford and Martial can appear in the Premier League 2 if a competitive match is required to boost fitness levels.
With some of our fringe players set to seek more playing time out on loan, we might also see some of our promising academy players like the mercurial Angel Gomez and Tahith Chong given a call up to our second string squad. (Surely a better option than seeing a half fit Phil Jones plodding about the pitch!)
Manchester United Reserves fixtures 2016/17:
2 Aug Oldham (H) Lancs Cup Semi-Final
15 Aug Leicester (H)
22 Aug Southampton (A)
28 Aug Chelsea (H)
9 Sep Manchester City (A)
19 Sep Derby (H)
26 Sep Everton (A)
17 Oct Liverpool (H)
24 Oct Arsenal (H)
28 Oct Tottenham (A)
21 Nov Sunderland (H)
28 Nov Reading (A)
9 Dec Chelsea (A)
9 Jan Manchester City (H)
15 Jan Liverpool (A)
30 Jan Everton (H)
6 Feb Derby (A)
20 Feb Reading (H)
5 Mar Sunderland (A)
13 Mar Southampton (H)
10 Apr Leicester (A)
24 Apr Tottenham (H)
8 May Arsenal (A)
All fixtures are subject to change. Unless otherwise stated, home games are at Leigh Sports Village and all matches will kick off at 19:00.
Please like, share and comment and make sure you look out for all the reserve match reports, news and future articles.