Manchester United’s youngsters pulled off a sensational triumph at the Sparkasse VGH Cup five-a-side tournament in Germany.
Kieran McKenna’s Under-19 side, entering the tournament for the first time, won the indoor competition despite losing goalkeeper Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui to injury two days into the four day event.
Wins over Hainberg (6-0), JSG Nieste (3-0), JSG Weper (8-1) Gottingen (4-2), Austria Vienna (4-2), Hamburg (also 4-2), PSV Eindhoven (4-1) and Wolfsburg (3-1) set up a date with Hannover in the final.
Man United, after drawing 2-2 with the German side in normal time, finally claimed victory with a 12-11 penalty shootout win.
If you want to excel at the highest level, you have to excel at five-a-side first. This format encourages various traits – first touch, precise passing, peripheral vision, quick turns, understanding the overall geometrics of the game – that are fundamental at the highest level and yet so rarely encouraged within the realms of the English game.
With that in mind, seeing United’s next generation travel to Germany – a country well-known for encouraging youngsters to play five-a-side and Futsal – and emerge victorious, even without a goalkeeper, is a truly remarkable achievement. This was a test of technical ability and overall footballing intelligence above anything, and seeing McKenna’s crop of youngsters perform so strongly bodes well for the future.