Manchester United Under-18s head coach Kieran McKenna is proud of his side’s performance against Chelsea in the national final, despite falling to a 3-0 defeat at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon.
United topped the Northern division above Manchester City and Liverpool with 48 points while Chelsea’s 53 points won them the Southern division, but goals from Dujon Sterling, Billy Gilmour and Tariq Lamptey secured victory in a one-sided, yet exciting, final.
“It was disappointing in the end and it wasn’t to be,” McKenna told MUTV after full-time. “I’m very proud of the first-half performance. I thought the quality of our football in that period was terrific and I thought we showed individually that we can compete and dominate on the ball. I thought as a team we played really, really well. I’m proud of the performance but disappointed we weren’t able to get it across the line.”
McKenna was without key players including Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year nominee James Garner, who is currently captaining England U-17s in the UEFA European Championship, and fielded 16-year-old Mason Greenwood up front.
Greenwood struggled to compete with Chelsea’s more-experienced defenders, but his coach was still proud of his efforts. McKenna added: “Unfortunately, in the end, it fizzled out in the second half but I think you have to take into consideration the age and experience of the boys. We’ve got Mason Greenwood up against two of the best [Under-18] centre-backs in the country who are two-and-a-half years older than him.
“He’s competed great and I thought all of the first years we had on the pitch competed excellently against older, stronger and more experienced boys. I thought the physicality probably came into it in the second half.”