Manchester United U18s start FA Youth Cup journey against Salford City

The 2019/2020 FA Youth Cup campaign ended in a disappointing 1-0 defeat in the semi-final where Manchester United U18’s faced Chelsea.

While it was a good run in the competition, the loss did leave a bad taste. However, this season, United seem a compact team and brilliant upfront.

United U18’s have been excellent this season and this may seem an understatement based on their numbers.

The talented youngsters have scored 42 goals and conceded 18. To nobody’s surprise, Charlie McNeill leads the list of our goalscorers with 14 goals, followed by Joe Hugill (6), Hoogewerf (4), Forson (3), Emeran (3), Savage (3), Iqbal (2), Wellens (2), Garnacho (1), Fernandez (1), Hansen – Aaroen (1), Svidersky (1) and Mejia (1).

While in most of the games they have scored easily, this team have had the right players to lead them to victory.

It was a goal by Charlie McNeill that saw them keep the good momentum in the league against Wolves. The opposition not only defended well, but also had a few good chances to score, keeping the United defence alert. United’s final game of 2020 was against Leeds United just a few days before the first team played them in the Premier League. The Reds scored four past them leaving their rivals without a chance to respond.

Against big names like Everton, Liverpool and City, the focus of the game was in our defending as well.

The game against City showed a few weak points United had to focus on. When United hosted Liverpool in Carrington in a battle for being top of the league, it was Hugill getting the team out of trouble. United did well at first going two goals in front, but then saw their advantage collapse in the space of 15 minutes. However, a clinical Hugill made no mistakes in front of the keeper as he scored twice and won United the three points.

United made their return in 2021 with a game against Blackburn U18’s, testing their defence and mentality as well. The youngsters let go of a three goal lead, but Charlie Savage made sure of a win two minutes before the end.

The campaign continued with a defeat way at Burnley, however Charlie McNeill had saved a beautiful derby day for the academy fans, netting four goals against his former team.

Derby County was a difficult task for our U18’s as despite taking the lead,  United lost 3-1 in a very bizarre match where the refereeing was put into question. The involvement of Finley McAllister was indeed a historic moment.

While there is no place for excuses, given the injuries and loans in the Reserves’ team, this season we have seen a young side in the U18 Premier League.

Just before the FA Youth Cup, United had a difficult game, but they clearly made a statement that what they have done this season is not a coincidence as they won away at Liverpool with a McNeill goal. This time Neil Ryan had the chance to play a strong team. The U23’s had their week off, giving some of our players a chance to recover.

FA Youth Cup, third round opponents, Salford City U18’s play in the Youth Alliance League, Group B. They currently sit 10th with 19 points and a negative goal difference.

Salford’s FA Youth Cup campaign started against Rochdale in November with a 3 – 2 win in the last minutes. As the game went by, it was Salford looking dangerous and after a brilliant set – up from Anton Smith found Finley who then did brilliantly to score a beauty. It did not take long, and Anton Smith doubled Salford’s lead. However, Rochdale did respond twice, and Salford only secured a place in the second round via a goal from Pedro when extra time was approaching. In this game, it was noted that while Salford were quite dangerous upfront, both goals they conceded, just like in the case of the penalty and the second goal, were sloppy. This was only their second time in the second round of the FA Youth Cup.

Their second round was as eventful as the first one, with Tranmere leading only after four minutes. As in their first game, another defensive error from the Ammies led to a foul in the edge of the box. Salford kept trying and they did manage to score two brilliant goals to see them through into the third round for the first time via Timmis and Ben Jones, while Salford’s number 10 had another brilliant game. United fans should also keep an eye on former United player Sam Carr who came in as a substitute in the second half.

The FA Youth Cup is an important competition and United U18’s indeed have a good chance of winning it. The youngsters that Neil Ryan has at his disposal are fantastic and it will be hard for him to choose his starting XI.

While it is important the youngsters are not under any pressure, United have not won the competition since the 2010/2011 season which indeed is a big gap. As the FA website has written in a page dedicated to the history of the tournament, if the FA Youth Cup is synonymous with any football club, is Manchester United. Rightly so, winning the competition for five consecutive times (ten times in total) epitomizes the legend behind the Busby Babes.

This record was broken by Chelsea recently, however the failure to adapt these players in the first team like Sir Matt did, only shows the greatness of those two brilliant coaches, Sir Matt and Jimmy Murphy. Sometimes, it seems the fans or the media forget how difficult things are at youth football, but United have been investing in youth recently and I cannot wait to see for results and the end product.

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