Manchester City youth academy players
Scouting reports on the best young players from the Eithad Campus
Manchester City have quickly established one of the best academies in England, finding some of the best local talent and supplementing them with high-cost recruits from across Europe and the world.
Here are brief profiles on their emerging generation coming out of the Etihad Campus. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
What is Manchester City's academy identity?
Since the club’s takeover, Manchester City have quickly established one of the best youth academies in English football. They initially supplemented it by recruiting high-level teenage talent from elsewhere, in England and beyond, but have since started to produce exciting talents from the local area.
Their style at underage level is predicated on technical talent, as well as tactically versatile and athletically rounded profiles. Many of City’s recent graduates are ready-made for senior football.
What are Manchester City's academy pathways?
Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have pushed through a number of academy players into senior football – but none of achieved anywhere near the success that Phil Foden has. Their decision to slowly integrate him into the first-team, keeping him at the club, has proven to be the perfect one.
City aren’t afraid to put young players out on loan in English and European football, and they also have their vast network of clubs to utilise as well.
Who are Manchester City's best academy graduates?
Daniel Sturridge, Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson are all academy graduates that predate the club’s oil state takeover, all of whom had good careers but didn’t quite fulfill their potential.
Since the takeover, City have produced a numbers of high-level players, not least Phil Foden. They also recruited aggressively, bringing in the likes of Jadon Sancho from English rivals and Angeliño, Brahim Díaz and Jason Denayer from foreign markets.
What competitions do Manchester City's academy teams play in?
Manchester City teams compete in the respective Under-18 and Under-23 leagues, as well as the UEFA Youth League, FA Youth Cup, and EFL Trophy.
City are reigning PL2 champions, having won it for the first time in the 2020/21 season, as well as the current Under-18 Premier League champions. They’ve yet to achieve much in European competition as well, with a semi-final in 2017/18 the further stage they’ve reached.
Born and raised in Salford, James McAtee is a local lad that’s going from strength to strength. He’s put up impressive numbers at underage level in each of the last three seasons, and kicked on again in last season’s PL2. He made his first-team debut last season as well.
His form at underage level unsurprisingly attracted a lot of interest from clubs across England. McAtee has since joined Sheffield United on loan for the 2022/23 season.
James McAtee's style of play
McAtee plays between lines in attacking areas, popping into pockets of space to receive the ball, link play, and threaten opposition defences. Quite small and slight, McAtee is a balanced and nimble mover. He isn’t an immediately impressive athlete but he is somewhat deceiving, especially in his ability to change tempo and slide past defenders.
Where he does standout, though, is in his technical quality. He has a lot of control in possession of the ball, and he makes the most of it in smaller spaces. He executes tight turns to slip pressure and is adept at weaving through bodies with the ball at his feet. All of that enable him to link play effectively between lines.
He is especially good at sliding past players with the ball, and he makes it look effortless. McAtee has the combination of control and athleticism to beat players in one-v-one situations, often disruptive opposition structure in central spaces.
The 19-year-old has impressive game intelligence too, and he is versatile tactically. He has good positional and situational awareness which enables him to slip into dangerous areas in and around the box. From there, he has the technical talent to execute a killer pass or finish confidently, typically off his explosive left foot.
Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see what City have in store for McAtee. Too good for underage foootball, Brighton & Hove Albion have already had an £8 million bid rejected for him. Expect to hear a lot more about him.
James McAtee possesses a versatile technical skillset and an excellent left foot, one capable of picking deft passes or finishing from any range and angle with emphasis. His threat in the final third – as a passer, carrier, mover and shooter – is his main weapon.
In his current form, McAtee lacks the required physicality to cope with the big bodies of senior football.
Picked up from Brentford after their decision to close their youth academy, London-born Luke Mbete has been a highly-rated prospect at Manchester City for the best part of five years. He’s progressed through the levels to establish himself in the under-23s this season, and has been involved with the first-team over the past year too.
Mbete has joined Huddserfield Town on loan for the 2022/23 season, his first steps into senior football.
Luke Mbete's style of play
Not particularly tall for a centre-back, Mbete’s primary asset in terms of his defensive skillset is his mobility. He can cover ground effectively and is a decent defender on the move, sweeping up deep or wide to intercept the ball or recover possession. He likes to step onto the front foot to engage with opponents as well, and his relatively compact frame allows him to be competitive in physical duels against strikers.
He does lack conviction in aerial duels, though, often resorting to disrupting opponents underneat the ball instead of winning the header outright. His body positioning can often be poor as well, especially when attackers drive at him. He crosses over himself, meaning he struggles to react to changes of direction and tempo.
Mbete is an adept ball-player from the back, and comes with the added bonus of being predominantly left-footed. He has a good range of passing from deep, capable of moving play down the wing, punching passes into midfield or switiching it out to the opposite side. His comfort in possession is probably his standout trait.
Luke Mbete is a mobile defender with strong ability in possession. He is good at defending on the move, adapting and adjusting to contain attackers and impact the ball. He also has a good range of passing from deep, with the added bonus of being left-footed.
Not the tallest centre-back, Mbete isn’t especially assertive in aerial duels. His body positioning can often be poor too, and his reactions aren’t quite as sharp as they should be.
More academy player pages
Manchester City have produced a number of high-level players, even prior to their oil state takeover, but Phil Foden dwarfs everyone. He is the standout academy graduate in City’s history.
Cole Palmer and James McAtee are the best home-grown academy players at City currently. There’s also Rico Lewis and Josh Wilson-Esbrand, who have both made the step up to the first-team squad for the 2022/23 season.