United began the defence of the FA Youth Cup with a 4-0 success against Torquay in the third round as Paul McGuinness' team hunt a record 11th triumph in the competition.
The Gulls had a long, delayed trip north due to motorway traffic and their nightmare continued from the first whistle at Moss Lane with the Reds' fluid formation causing a host of problems for the defence. Tom Lawrence, back from injury, saw a dipping drive fly just over the top before making the breakthrough 10 minutes later. Jack Barmby's pass allowed the Welshman to turn and lash a low drive wide of Aaron Ibbotson and into the corner of the net.
Lawrence was denied a blatant penalty when up-ended by Kirtys MacKenzie inside the box but Torquay threatened with their first attack of note as Sean Latimer's glancing header was scrambled onto a post by Liam Jacob. Barmby was denied by Ibbotson after a burst forward by Tyler Blackett but he made no mistake when Scott Beattie gifted possession to Lawrence and his pass allowed Barmby to finish emphatically with his left foot. The graceful Adnan Januzaj, whose upright style resembles Arnold Muhren, saw a shot deflected wide as United totally dominated the opening half.
The visitors started the second period with more adventure, the speedy Niall Thompson firing over, but were soon pegged back again by the technically-superior Reds. Barmby worked Ibbotson again and, after Lawrence limped off, an inevitable third goal arrived when Mats Daehli's run led to Barmby hitting the inside of a post and Beattie smashed into his own net with substitute Sam Byrne waiting to pounce.
Many would have expected the Devonian outfit to tire after chasing shadows for so long but, to their huge credit, Geoff Harrop's side continued to battle and refused to buckle under sustained pressure. Gyliano van Velzen did add a fourth with eight minutes remaining, tapping in after substitute Donald Love worked a one-two with Barmby and produced an inviting centre but there was plenty to admire about the visitors' endeavour.
Barmby's late injury left United to end the game with 10 men and there were a number of bruising challenges from both sides, some of which went unpunished by referee David Lawrence. That said, the two sets of players ensured the one-sided tie was always played in the right spirit.