With over 67,000 in the crowd at Old Trafford, the FA Youth Cup final against Nottingham Forest marked the biggest stage of Manchester United’s u18s careers so far.
Kobbie Mainoo kicked off the action with some clever footwork to get into the box and shoot into the keeper’s arms in the opening minute.
Up the other end, Forest came agonisingly close to taking the lead in the 3rd minute when their skipper rose on the corner to head just inches wide.
In the 12th minute, Isak Hansen-Aaroen won a free kick after a mazy technical run, beating several defenders before being taken down.
Sam Murray clipped the free kick into the area for United’s skipper, Rhys Bennett, to flick on and the Forest keeper couldn’t deal with the bounce on the ball as he palmed it into the goal to give United an early lead.
Later in the half, some good team play ended with Marc Jurado finding Hansen-Aaroen on the edge of the box to take the ball on the turn and open space for the shot but a good block from the defender took the power out of the Norwegian’s effort allowing for an easy save in the end.
Mainoo drove his way into the box and fumbled the ball to Alejandro Garnacho who dragged his shot all the way out for a throw-in.
Late in the half and Forest pulled back a deserved equaliser from a disaster mistake by Radek Vitek.
Josh Powell cut in from the right and struck on his dominant left foot into the bottom right corner which should have been saved by Vitek but it fumbled straight through his hands and into the goal as the United defenders rushed to console the disappointed keeper.
Charlie McNeill raced down the left beating a tight offside line but his whipped cross flashed across the goal unable to find a teammate and went out the opposite side of the pitch to mark the end of the first half.
Forest started the second half quickly with a big chance as they cut back from the byline for a strike from 8 yards out but Jurado and Bennett were on hand to combine to block the shot.
Minutes after Hansen-Aaroen was showing his quality with another Ronaldinho-Esque elastico to get into the box and cut back for McNeill but it was just out of his reach and then Mainoo tried to pounce on the open ball but swung and only got air.
In the 50th minute, a pile driver from Jurado at the right corner of the box could only be parried out for a corner by the keeper. The resulting corner was cleared to the waiting Garnacho at the edge of the box to shoot off the defender and over the bar.
Struggling with the physicality of the Forest side, Travis Binnion introduced Maxi Oyedele and Joe Hugill in the 64th minute to get a better grip on the cagey affair.
Bennett almost added a second as he powered a header down towards the right corner but a timely block from the Forest defender denied the United captain from restoring the lead.
Minutes later, Forest slipped up trying to play out from the back under Hugill’s press allowing Garnacho to race in and steal the ball away only to be taken down just outside the box.
But luck was in United’s favour as the referee got it completely wrong and awarded a penalty. Garnacho stepped up and calmly dispatched just right of the centre of the goal.
With eight minutes of added time, Garnacho ran at the heart of the Forest backline and had Oyedele open on his left but went for the strike himself from 18 yards and soared it over the bar.
A minute later and a mistake from the Forest defender allowed Garnacho to snatch the ball again and run into the box and with a cut onto his right and back to his left the Argentinean struck off the defender and the deflection cannoned into the net to seal the victory.
The win saw United lift the coveted FA Youth Cup trophy for the first time since 2011 in front of a record crowd.
United: Vitek, Jurado, Bennett, Jackson, Murray, Mainoo, Gore, Mather (Aljofree 86), Hansen-Aaroen (Oyedele 64), Garnacho, McNeill (Hugill 64)
Unused subs: Wooster, Pye, Ennis, Forson