The U18s had an added incentive to perform well in their FA Youth Cup Fourth Round match against Hull City in the form of first-team manager Louis van Gaal who was watching on from the stands.
Van Gaal made just his second appearance at a youth match since taking over as Manchester United boss, the first coming in September when he watched the U21s win 4-0 over Sunderland in the U21 Premier League.
The U18s, many of whom were involved in the recent U19 Mercedes Benz Junior Cup winning squad, did not disappoint and ran out convincing 3-0 winners against the Tigers. The goals came from Zack Dearnley and Callum Gribbin, who scored a brace. U21s coaches Warren Joyce and Nicky Butt were also at the game this evening.
U18s boss Paul McGuinness was happy with the performance. He praised the defence who now have six consecutive clean sheets and speaking to MUTV, described the back four of Tyler Reid, Axel Tuanzebe, RoShaun Williams and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, as a strong and quick unit which complimented each other well.
McGuinness also singled out Dutch youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah out for praise, saying that he covered the ground well and provided a good defensive shield for the back four. Fosu-Mensah gave his best performance since joining the Reds, with the larger Old Trafford pitch suiting him and his style of play.
The FA Youth Cup gives the youngsters a chance to play at stadiums and on bigger pitches and McGuinness is keen to mix things up, having previously arranged three evening matches at Moss Lane. The U18s manager feels that the Old Trafford pitch gives great experience and confidence to youngsters: “You know the next time they get a chance whether they play here [with the U18s] or with the U21s or with the first team, it’s great that they’ve got a feel of the ground.”
Given that the last time Van Gaal watched a youth game he gave relatively unknown Paddy McNair his senior professional debut, where he is now a first-team squad member, several of the lads on show this evening may have worked their way into the manager’s thoughts.