Old rivals meet in FA Youth Cup fourth round
Manchester United's Under-18s meet Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup fourth round on Saturday afternoon (15:00 BST kick-off), with the action live on MUTV in the UK and Ireland.
The two old rivals clash in the tie of the round as Neil Ryan's boys look to emulate home-and-away wins over the Merseysiders at league level this term.
Ryan selected a very inexperienced squad for the 2-0 triumph at Salford City in the previous round with schoolboy Daniel Gore heading the opening goal before McNeill made certain of progress. Liverpool overcame Sutton United at the same stage.
This time around, there is the option of using some of the more experienced eligible players who have been performing regularly for the Under-23s, such as Hugill, Hannibal, Shola Shoretire and Will Fish. Hannibal has been training with the senior squad this week while the international players have been away.
Head of Academy Nick Cox told us: "I think it wouldn't matter who we'd drawn in the fourth round. The nature of the competition and what it means to club means the boys and staff are always excited. The fact we're now playing against stellar opposition adds a little bit of spice to a wonderful experience and an opportunity for the boys to be able to go and test themselves up against really good players. Everyone is looking forward to the game and are ever so excited.
“I believe a lot of people will look at the two clubs and immediately jump to the rivalry you see at first-team level but I feel, while the boys will go out to compete and to win, it's up to us to try to instil that winning mentality within them as well but, actually, I think both sets of staff will be hoping for a wonderful football match, which is a brilliant development experience for the boys, to help them add a little piece on their journey and their career. The boys will feel a sense of rivalry but, probably for us grown-ups, we'll be able to take a long-term view on what the game means.
So would another 4-3 in United's favour be a welcome attraction for those watching on MUTV?
"I'm not so sure Neil Ryan would necessarily want such a high-scoring game," admitted Cox. "He might want something a bit safer than that! No, listen, hopefully it will be two groups of highly talented young players with a real opportunity to test themselves against each other. Fingers crossed, in the process, they'll put on a really good performance and give something for the viewers at home to enjoy. It would be great if we can have a high-scoring game.
“I think probably the only shadow cast over the game is it couldn't be in front of a crowd at Old Trafford. The boys are desperate to win a competition and want to progress as far as they can. I've said many times before, the staff can take a little bit of a distant view on what the game actually means because, what the game actually is is a wonderful opportunity for the boys.
“They can practise what it might be like to play in a big fixture in the first team one day or, if they're not going to play in the first team, they can have the opportunity to play in a high-profile fixture they can talk about for the rest of their lives. So, ordinarily, we'd like to see a crowd and it held at Old Trafford and those ingredients are what makes the game a little more special.
“For one reason or another, it's still going to be a fantastic arena at Leigh Sports Village but the fans won't be there. It will still feel a little bit different and special because it's a Saturday with a three o'clock kick-off and that seems traditional and nice. The boys are fully aware of what the game means so there will be that extra level of scrutiny and expectation on them, which will only go a long way to help prepare them for the eventual pressures of first-team football."
The victors will be away to Leicester City in the fifth round.
MUTV's live coverage starts at 14:45 BST on Saturday as United look to take another step towards winning the trophy we last lifted 10 years ago.