Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The next Ronaldo and a striker with over 600 goals, the stars of Man Utd’s FA Youth Cup final

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United take on Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford on Wednesday in a bid for their 11th win in the competition

Tickets are just £1 and all proceeds go to the Manchester United Foundation.

Over 60,000 fans will be in attendance at Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Nottingham Forest in Wednesday’s FA Youth Cup final.

United have won this trophy ten times but have not reached the final since 2011. On that occasion, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard started both legs of a 6-3 aggregate win over Sheffield United.

With United’s senior side coming off another disappointing season, the responsibility rests with the Under-18 side to provide some form of silverware to the Manchester red half.

The finals also provide an opportunity to audition for a first-team role next season. New coach Erik ten Hag will certainly have a keen interest in individual performances, if not the outcome of this game, given his reputation for nurturing young talent.

I takes a look at who the Dutchman will be paying special attention to and who could become household names in the years to come.

Winger Garnacho may have trained with Lionel Messi after being called up to Argentina’s senior squad in March, but it is the other standout talent of the last generation whose profile makes for a closer match.

A right-footed left winger with blistering speed and power, Garnacho has drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo.

When Garnacho made his debut against Chelsea in April, he was 256 days younger than when he made his debut for United in 2003.

Garnacho impressed tremendously in his first season for the Under-23 side, scoring four goals and a further five goals in the FA Youth Cup in 12 games, making him United’s top scorer in the competition.

His scoring record this season is remarkable as that solo effort in the final minute of round five against Everton is just a glimpse of what the 17-year-old can do.

Striker McNeill is a youth phenomenon, scoring 110 goals in 72 games for Manchester City U15s.

Adding 38 assists to this season’s numbers, it’s no surprise that Adidas have offered the youngster a lucrative deal at just 14 years old.

McNeill has scored over 600 goals at youth level for Liverpool, City and most recently United after returning to the club he supports in 2020 after a six-year absence.

The 18-year-old scored twice in the semi-final against Wolves and is in fine form, having scored three goals in his last two U18 Premier League games.

At 6ft 2in, Hugill presents a bigger threat from the air than McNeill, but is just as strong in front of goal.

He is United’s top scorer in the Under-18 Premier League, averaging every 92 minutes for his 12 goals.

Signed from Sunderland in July 2020, Hugill immediately impressed at Under-18 level, scoring twice in his first Premier League start against Blackburn.

Later that season he was name-checked by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when the former United boss questioned why Hugill missed a chance to take a penalty in a game against Liverpool. Hugill had already scored four goals in that game and offered new signing Amad Diallo the penalty.

The Red Devils’ defensive stability is ensured by Bennett who, unlike the aforementioned forwards, has spent his entire career at United.

Bennett has been a key figure for the U18s since his first appearance as a 16-year-old.

Earlier in the season he spent a week at AFC Wimbledon as part of United’s professional development programme.

Justin Cochrane, United’s Head of Player Development and Coaching, explained the benefits of the scheme on the club’s website: “It’s an opportunity for the young players to step into the senior environment of the league.

“You spend a week with teams where I know the coach and the environment there just to get a feel for what men’s football is really like.

“They have a full ‘open door’ to see what it’s like in practice, in meetings or warming up for a game – they’re not just playing in a game.

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