The FA youth cup has been a prestigious competition in Manchester United’s history, with their win in 1992 being a springboard for the famous class of ’92 and the club’s most successful period ever.
The club is the most successful in the competition with 10 titles, however, the most recent one was back in 2011. In that team, Ravel Morrison was one of the stand-out players and his underwhelming career afterward will forever be a warning to those with even the highest potential at youth team level.
Coach Neil Ryan picked a very strong side for today’s game, with Hannibal Mejbri and first team debutant Shola Shoretire starting on either side of the prolific Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill, while Liverpool were without their injured top scorer, Layton Stewart.
Man United started well, with Alvaro Fernandez, playing at center back, making a crunching tackle and emphasising the rivalry.
McNeill and Hugill played on the shoulders of Liverpool’s defence and after a darting run in behind, McNeill had the ball in the net only to be flagged marginally offside.
United edged possession for the first 10 minutes and pressed Liverpool well. Mejbri won the ball on the front foot and had a good shot blocked for a corner.
But on minute 15, the game swung in favour of Liverpool. The Polish 17 year-old, Mateusz Musialowski, broke dangerously down the left and had a good drive saved by Radek Vitek.
Shortly after, they worked the ball into James Balagizi in the number 10 position who laid it off to left-back, James Norris. Norris dinked a nice ball in behind Fernandez, who showed his inexperience in the position by not tracking Tyler Morton, who headed it in.
For the following 10 minutes, Liverpool were on top, winning things in midfield and playing through the double pivot of captain, Martin Svidersky and Charlie Savage.
United wrestled the game back towards half-time, however, with Mejbri, starting to dictate things, drifting into midfield from the left. He had some nice dribbles into Liverpool’s box but couldn’t find the final ball or shot.
The closer it got to half-time, the more United pushed but Liverpool stayed deep and compact. United couldn’t break through.
The second half began with United dominating possession. They worked the ball into Hugill on the right of Liverpool’s box who fed it out to Fernandez arriving late on the left. His low shot was cleared off the line.
Shortly after, Mejbri made an intricate run past several Liverpool defenders. He carried it to the touchline and edge of their 6 yard box but his shot was saved and the rebound hit the post.
United were growing frustrated and some tetchy exchanges started to creep in.
On the 68th minute, the ball ran away from Liverpool’s James Norris in midfield, who dived in, studs showing, in an attempt to regain it. United sub, Marc Jurado, was sent flying. The referee issued Norris with a straight red.
With Liverpool down to 10 men, United pushed again. 16 year-old Norwegian, Isaak Hansen-Aaren came on to add creativity. He and Mejbri had plenty of the ball but the sending off seemed to galvanize Liverpool further and any half-chances United mustered were blocked, wide or saved.
Noam Emeran came on for United with 10 minutes to go for the quiet McNeill to provide more width, but Liverpool countered with more defenders coming on.
After 6 minutes of injury time, a lofted ball made it to Shoretire at the back post. He chested it down well and chopped inside but couldn’t get the shot away inside Liverpool’s 6 yard box.
It summed up United’s afternoon; a game of ‘nearlys’ against a very compact Liverpool, who only occasionally threatened. But Liverpool were the team to go through.