City’s Elite Development Squad and Under-18s have had another busy season and it’s hard to deny there has been a lot of challenges for both teams from start to finish.

Injury-struck campaigns for both teams meant players were stretched across both league competitions, the UEFA Youth League, EFL Trophy, FA Youth Cup, Under-18 Premier League Cup and Under-17 Premier League Cup.

But there were two gleaming moments from the season.

Our youngest Academy stars lifted the FA Youth Cup trophy for the fourth time in the Club’s history, and three Academy players - Micah Hamilton, Mahamadou Susoho and Jacob Wright - went on to make first-team debuts for Pep Guardiola.

With that in mind, we take a look at how both squads faired throughout the 2023/24 campaign…

Elite Development Squad

The Under-21s were under the guidance of Brian Barry-Murphy for a third successive season and the head coach and his players were faced with an exciting challenge; a restructured Premier League 2.

Having won the league for a third consecutive campaign, a new format would undoubtedly prove to be a tall task already but with injuries impacting the squad from the offset, City struggled to find our feet in the opening weeks of the season.

And with a large number of players moving to pastures anew – Shea Charles, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Tommy Doyle, Callum Doyle and Carlos Borges to name a few – through loan spells or contract offers elsewhere, the squad competing in Premier League 2 was a youthful one.

One league win in 2023 left City finding it difficult to break away from the bottom of the table. An emphatic 4-0 victory at Newcastle United, courtesy of Emilio Lawrence, Michael Okeke and Will Dickson, finally got the ball rolling for the team in the league.

But the narrow losses and difficult draws to complete the calendar year did not reflect the performances. Determination, passion, development and togetherness were just a handful of characteristics shown by the Under-21s throughout the campaign.

The shining light for Barry-Murphy’s team was our triumphs in one of the most prestigious competitions in Academy football, the UEFA Youth League.

Mirroring the men’s team group games, our Under-19 European journey began with a home clash against Red Star Belgrade. A thrilling 5-2 win was followed up by a 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig and 4-0 win at Young Boys.

Continuing our unbeaten run, 3-0 and 2-1 victories on home soil against Young Boys and RB Leipzig respectively meant City had secured our place in the knockout stages. And a 2-2 draw at Red Star Belgrade saw us complete the group unbeaten.

Injuries still proving to cause problems and Barry-Murphy forced to name a different squad each game as well as enlisting players out of position, City travelled to FSV Mainz for our Round of 16 clash.

Justin Oboavwoduo’s late first half goal restored faith in City’s hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals but a second half penalty for the hosts meant our journey in the Youth League came to an end in February.

“The nature of the game was difficult because there was such high stakes involved for the players and they want to chase the game and I suppose it’s hard to them to stay calm in those situations and that’s a really big learning curve for them in terms of how they progress moving forward,” said Barry-Murphy after the defeat in Germany.

“I think the players’ resilience on how they bounced back from conceding an early goal was impressive.”

Back to Premier League 2 action and three wins in our final six fixtures – 2-0, 3-1 and 2-0 against Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and West Brom respectively – gave City a small glimmer of hope of reaching the top 16 and a place in the league’s knockouts but results around us didn’t fall favourably in the final two months of the season.

The campaign ended with City placed 23rd with 18 points from 20 games.

Despite the 2023/24 season being the first with no silverware under Barry-Murphy’s tutelage, for City’s Academy and the coaching staff, the focus is always on player development and the head coach feels strongly that the difficult campaign will undoubtedly help shape his players for exciting senior careers in the near future.

“The players have shown a remarkable understanding of what they’ve faced and the resilience to overcome it,” said Barry-Murphy.

“I’ve said it a lot but most of the players won’t have experienced a tough season like they have in terms of results, exposed to a challenge that is so high that it feels uncomfortable so to see them stick at it and overcome it is a really powerful learning tool.

“To experience that so young in their careers, to educate them on what that feels and looks like is really important.”


Ben Wilkinson entered his third season in charge of the Under-18s and the City youngsters started the 2023/24 season as they left off the previous campaign.

Five consecutive wins in the Under-18 Premier League North and Under-18 Premier League Cup flaunted our attacking prowess with an impressive 22 goals scored against Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Middlesbrough, Leeds and Derby County.

Two losses and two draws saw us drop to second in the league but that wouldn’t deter City from beginning our FA Youth Cup campaign on the front foot before the calendar year ended.

Vicarage Road played host to City’s comfortable 2-0 win over Watford to see us progress to the fourth round.

Nine wins and one loss completed January and February for Wilkinson’s Under-18s - the defeat at the hands of eventual league winners Manchester United.

An impressive 2-0 win at West Ham to dismiss the title holders from the FA Youth Cup before back-to-back 2-1 triumphs against Reading and Tottenham Hotspur saw City secure our place in the semi-finals.

We overcame West Ham again, this time 2-1, in the Under-18 Premier League Cup which sealed passage to the final four.

The Under-18s just couldn’t stop winning as they went on to record 19 wins in 22 games in 2024. And arguably their most impressive performance of the campaign was in the form of our 4-1 victory over United.

A Farid Alfa-Rurprecht brace, Ashton Muir strike and Jaydan Kamason own-goal were the pinnacle moments of a classy, confident performance.

But out of the 24 league games – 18 wins, two draws and four losses – City were pipped to the post by United who finished six points above City’s 56; one point less than our title-winning 57 last season.

With the end of the season on the horizon, the first cup final City entered was the Under-18 Premier League Cup. After beating Leicester in extra-time to advance to the final two, we faced United for a third time this season.

A narrow 2-1 loss meant just the FA Youth Cup remained if City were to secure any silverware. Fuelled by the fire from the narrow defeat to our neighbours, City were clinical, dominating and structured against Leeds at the Etihad.

In front of 20,000 fans, City put on a fantastic display to win 4-0 with goals from Justin Oboavwoduo, Jaden Heskey, Stephen Mfuni and Matty Warhurst.

“To win the FA Youth Cup is an amazing feeling,” said Wilkinson. “It’s such a prestigious trophy and I’m delighted for everyone in the Academy as it’s such a team effort.

“So much effort has gone into the boys over the years from so many people. It’s a wonderful feeling to win it and it’s such a great night for everyone here at the Etihad. Everyone in the Academy can be really proud.”

But like every football campaign, one finishes and a new one begins, with pre-season camps around six weeks away.  

With both teams already eager to push for both league titles again next season as well as looking to improve in the UEFA Youth League and retain the FA Youth Cup, it’s hard not to get excited about both teams heading into the 2024/25 season.