Young Reds reach Youth Cup semi-final
Manchester United’s Under-18s booked their place in the FA Youth Cup semi-final after defeating an accomplished and resilient Wigan Athletic side 2-1 at Old Trafford on Friday evening.
Goals from Shola Shoretire, in the first half, and Deji Sotona, just after the break, ensured we edged past the Latics and qualify to meet Chelsea in the last four.
Backed by a large and noisy contingent of supporters, who were corralled in the lower north-east quadrant, Wigan didn’t appear to be daunted by the occasion as the game got started.
And they certainly arrived at Old Trafford buoyed by a record this season which could only be described as impressive.
Our near-neighbours lead the English U-18 Professional Development League by 12 points and had claimed the scalps of Tottenham Hotspur and Birmingham City in this season’s Youth Cup.
Youth Cup action Gallery
The best images as our Under-18s beat Wigan 2-1 in the FA Youth Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford.
The first real chance of the evening fell to Sotona, who just failed to hit the target from Reece Devine’s left-wing cross.
Soon after and it was United’s goal that was under threat when Teden Mengi cleared Kyle Joseph’s goal-bound header off the line.
Sotona had a shot deflected away as the Reds began to make their presence felt in front of the deserted East Stand, and our no.9 was proving a handful.
He played a key role in Shoretire’s opening goal, holding the ball up well before teeing up Wellens, who slid the ball to our no.11 to fire home from the edge of the area.
United appeared to be getting into their stride, but Wigan were unfazed at this setback to their ambitions and they continued to advance up field at every opportunity.
And six minutes before the interval they got their reward when winger Sean McGurk fired past Ondrej Mastny after United had failed to clear Tom Costello’s cross.
The first 45 definitely whetted the crowd’s appetite for the second half and they didn’t have long to wait for the contest to take another twist.
Ben Hockenhull’s floated through-ball found its way through to Sotona, who held off James Carragher, son of Jamie, before finishing past Sam Tickle.
The game descended, for a few minutes, into a series of clumsy and unnecessary clashes, which resulted in several players having their names noted by referee Benjamin Speedie.
Both teams eventually returned to concentrating on the finer points of the game and once again it became a compelling contest.
Mark Helm twice went close to sealing the win from distance, while Sotona hit the post in the 84th minute, after getting on the end of Charlie Wellens’ cross from the right.
The Reds’ rearguard, marshalled superbly once again by captain Mengi, held firm and, having denied the dangerous Latics any shots on target in the second half, Neil Ryan's side are now just one game away from a first final in this prestigious tournament since 2011.
United: Mastny; Bejger, Mengi (c), Hockenhull, Devine; McCann, Helm; Wellens (Forson 86), Mejbri, Shoretire; Sotona.
Subs not used: Neville, Mee, Mejia, Haygarth, Hardley, Stanley.
Scorers: Shoretire 24, Sotona 50
Booked: Mejbri, Sotona