Head of Academy lauds amazing opportunities in FA Youth Cup
Head of Academy Nick Cox says Manchester United’s FA Youth Cup run provides “amazing learning opportunities” for the club’s Under-18s, who are excited at the opportunity of making history and memories.
United are the most successful team in FA Youth Cup history, having won the competition on 10 occasions. This season’s side, led by head coach Travis Binnion, have knocked out Scunthorpe United, Reading, and Everton to set up a quarter-final against Leicester City at Old Trafford.
Having twice played at the Theatre of Dreams so far in the run to the last eight, members of the U18s have enjoyed several memorable moments already, whether it’s been an acrobatic finish in front of the Stretford End or leading the side out under the lights.
“Everyone’s excited,” Cox told us.
“We try and keep and our feet on the ground and stay calm about it all and put it into the context of a player’s long-term development, but when you come this close to a final, you can’t help but start to get carried away about what might happen.
“We’ve really enjoyed the fixtures we’ve had so far, particularly the ones at Old Trafford.
“They’ve been magical. We’ve seen some great performances, individual and from the teams, but it’s been great to welcome opponents to Old Trafford and let them have a little taste of the magic of our great stadium.”
Watching young Spanish winger Alejandro Garnacho score a thrilling counter-attack goal or Kobbie Mainoo heading home has been pleasing for everyone at the Academy. Furthermore, giving opposition players the chance to play at Old Trafford is an added privilege.
“Not every club chooses to play it’s Youth Cup games at its main stadium,” Cox outlined, “but I’m really passionate that wherever possible, we should play our games at Old Trafford, because that serves a number of purposes.
“First and foremost, it could be the greatest night of a young man’s life. If you only ever play at Old Trafford once, well, that’s one more than most of the people in this country, so the opportunity to play at Old Trafford is memorable.
“But for some of our boys, they are going to go on to play in high-profile games at Old Trafford so it starts to pave the way towards making that experience a little bit more manageable once they eventually get there in the pressure of a first-team fixture.
“And, look, we believe that we owe it to the competition to host games there as well. The Scunthorpe boys in particular spring to my mind. As a youth developer, I was delighted that they scored some goals at Old Trafford. And that sounds a little patronising - it’s not. They were a great team on the night, they put up a wonderful performance, they gave us a real problem, but they scored two goals and the players who scored those goals will remember those forever more.
“I watched the boys after the game, the Scunthorpe lads warming down, and they didn’t want to leave the pitch, and I felt like we had done our duty to make sure that we honoured the history of the competition, and we honoured our friends and neighbours in terms of giving them an experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Travis Binnion’s side compete in the U18 Premier League for the majority of the year, as well as engaging in the U18 PL Cup and the UEFA Youth League. It’s the FA Youth Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious youth football tournaments, that really provides unique experiences that help the boys’ development.
“The FA Youth Cup presents us with some amazing learning opportunities,” Cox explained.
“The boys put some pressure on themselves to win and the history of the competition at this club puts a little bit of pressure on them as well, but I think the Academy staff are mindful of the purpose of the FA Youth Cup.
“It is to create amazing learning opportunities, to play in front of crowds, to feel a bit of pressure, to be familiar with Old Trafford, to try and deal with whatever conundrums cup competitions throws at you.
“So first and foremost it’s a learning experience, but obviously making progress throws up more learning opportunities which is great. But for each of those boys, it’s a story that they’re going to tell forever, opportunities to play at great stadiums and to play in some entertaining games.”
A limited number of tickets remain for Thursday's FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Leicester City at Old Trafford and can be secured here up until 09:00 GMT on the morning of the game.