By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
The revamp of the Manchester United Academy has been kickstarted by the departure of youth coach Paul McGuinness.
The Premier League giants announced on Friday night that McGuinness, himself a United academy product and son of former United manager Wilf McGuinness, is ending a 28-year-old association with the club.
More changes are imminent after United chiefs completed a root-and-branch review of their Academy.
Youth player recruitment chief Derek Langley is also set to leave the club. Football Insider revealed on Friday night that Class of ’92 graduate Chris Casper is in advanced talks to replace him.
Woodward told investors in a conference call on Thursday that announcements would take place in the coming days about a strategic overhaul of the academy.
McGuinness has been in charge of the under-18s since 2005 but has seen a dramatic slump in standards, with his side bottom of the Premier League’s under-18 North Division with only 11 points from 19 matches this season.
In a statement released via the club,McGuinness said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to follow in my father Wilf’s footsteps and to serve Manchester United in a variety of roles for a total of 28 years.
“I have dedicated my life to each job, from player to education and welfare officer, to Centre of Excellence director and scout, assistant academy director for under-9s to under-16s and later under-17s to under-21s, head coach for the professional development phase and finally youth-team
A United source told Football Insider that Casper has been targeted as the club aim to bridge the gap between the academy and the first team to ensure a steady flow of youngsters into the senior ranks.
Casper, who works in the regional offices of the Premier League, would also help maintain the link to the club’s roots and traditions.
Casper is a familiar face to many at United after progressing through the club’s academy ranks. He formed part of the famed 1992 Youth Cup winning team that helped to launch the careers of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Gary and Phil.
Jesse Lingard and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have been the most impressive of the Academy graduates who have broken into the first team under Louis van Gaal in the last two seasons.
But United chiefs have been concerned not only that many top youngsters are choosing to join rivals Manchester City ahead of them, but they are also slipping behind the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham.
Although Woodward compared United’s track record favourably to City and Chelsea in terms of bringing young players into the first team, an extensive review will lead to a change in personnel at the Academy.
“The academy continues to be the heart of the club, giving youth a chance is part of our DNA,” Woodward told investors in a conference call on Thursday.
“We took the departure of Brian McClair last summer as an opportunity to do a root-and-branch review of the academy. That is now compete and changes are under way. Announcements will follow in in coming days.”