Young Reds aiming for night to remember
Manchester United's Under-18s face Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford on Friday night in the last eight of the FA Youth Cup (kick-off 19:00 GMT).
Neil Ryan's Reds have progressed to this stage by beating Lincoln City, Norwich City and Leeds United and face tough opponents in a highly rated Wigan side, who have reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Teden Mengi and Reece Devine have featured prominently during the run and they took time to speak to us about the challenge that lies ahead in front of what will hopefully be another decent-sized crowd, with free entry for all spectators.
Reds all set for big Youth Cup clashVideo
Skipper Mengi is relishing going into battle again at Old Trafford and leading the team out at the Theatre of Dreams.
“Friday will be a tough game, I think every game in the youth cup is a tough game but we’ve just got to kick on and play our way,
“ he told us. ”Home advantage at Old Trafford and the atmosphere will be a big boost for us. I think the Leeds tie has to be the best atmosphere I've played in. The Leeds fans were crazy, and so were the United fans. It was a really professional performance from the team. To not concede and see that game out was good game management from the boys.
“I think I've always been a leader and I’ve always looked to help everyone as best I can,
“ he told us. ”I think that’s always been in me. I enjoy it, everyone always comes to me when they need advice or anything else.
“I’m really proud of it [not conceding a goal in the competition], it boosts everyone’s confidence, we just want to kick on now and keep up that record, but we need to take it round by round.
Mengi appreciates there is a long way to go, Chelsea await the victors in the last four, and Wigan have looked an outstanding Under-18s team for the past couple of seasons.
However, the centre-back admits he would love the chance to lift the prestigious trophy and follow in some famous footsteps over the years.
“It would mean a lot,” he said.
“In your career, you only get two shots at it and, obviously, last year, we were knocked out by Brighton so it would mean a lot to me if we went on and won it this year.
“The club make us aware of how important the youth cup is, we have the most titles to our name so if we can retain that and add another one that would be really good for us.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attended the Leeds match and full-back Devine admits it gave everybody a real shot of confidence by knowing he was in the stands.
“It's obviously nice that the manager comes along to watch and we all want to impress and show him our talents,” he said.
“We want to impress on the night and it was a confidence booster as well to see the manager there.
“It's great for us that we've not conceded a goal yet in the competition. It's a big thing for us defenders and a big positive because we don't like conceding goals. The midfielders as well, in front of us, we want them providing assists and the players up front getting the goals.
“Wigan are a good team but we know we're a good team as well. We're focused and ready for the challenge. It would mean a lot to me to win this trophy. It's such a big thing at this club as well. Everyone in the past - we hope to follow in their footsteps and go all the way.
Wigan defeated Tottenham in an earlier round and cruised past Birmingham City 4-0 to get to this stage. The Latics are 12 points clear at the top of the Under-18 Professional Development League North.
Coach Peter Murphy told the club's official website:
“What an experience it will be. Having moments at stadiums like Old Trafford is what the FA Youth Cup is all about and it'll be something the lads will remember for the rest of their lives. I'll be really proud taking this team to play against Manchester United.
”We want to win games and trophies. Half of the team had a good taste of it with three trophies last season.
Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir have really attracted attention and James Carragher, son of former Liverpool star Jamie, is already up for the occasion.
”Coming from a Liverpool family, getting the chance to go and play against Manchester United will be a great experience,
“ he admitted.
”We've got to go there full of confidence. We're in the quarter-finals for a reason.
There is free entry for all fans and tickets are not required at Old Trafford. Gates open at 18:00 GMT. MUTV will show highlights of the game on Saturday at 12:00 GMT but are not permitted to screen it live as the FA are exercising exclusive rights to show it on the Emirates FA Cup YouTube channel.