What the Youth Cup meant: Pride, emotion, history
Old Trafford was an explosion of youthful exuberance on Wednesday night, in the stands and on the pitch. It was a truly memorable occasion, and several Reds share their thoughts on it here...
HARRY ROBINSON: Pride in history
In a pre-match good luck message, David Beckham explained that he cherished the 1992 FA Youth Cup as "the most special trophy I won." Hyperbole? Maybe. Or just the truth.
I truly think anyone at last night's Old Trafford final – not just the players, staff and their families – will hold the evening close to their hearts for many years to come. Youth Cup glory provides a unique feeling, a simply unbeatable concoction of deep pride, joy, excitement and hope. And pride... well, there were so many things to be proud about at once. The 67,492-strong crowd, for starters. What an incredible demonstration of support from the fans of both United and Forest.
And then the players. Some local - from Denton, Droylsden, Cheadle and Salford – and some from further afield – Tromso, Madrid, Catalonia, Vsetin, Den Haag. All of them hard workers and talented young people with big dreams. There’s not much more inspiring than that.
Finally, the history. When I looked on at those beaming kids sliding in front of the Stretford End, showing off their medals to one another, embracing, dancing, and celebrating, I could see the past as well as the future. These lads have achieved the same thing that Duncan Edwards, Eddie Coleman, David Pegg and the others did back in 1953. On the same spot. In the same stadium. Wearing the same colours. With the same pride.
JOE GANLEY: Teenage kicks!
There are few things finer than walking down the Warwick Road, on a balmy evening in early May, to watch Manchester United play. And it's even better when you're surrounded by thousands of young Reds – many attending their first-ever United game, all for the marvellously accessible price of £1. Much in modern life is prohibitively expensive for everyone, never mind teenagers, but the FA Youth Cup final felt like a glorious youth explosion. Virtually everyone that wanted a ticket could get one, no-one was priced out, and that was written across the face of Wednesday night's crowd in wonderful beaming technicolour. Hopefully the match against Nottingham Forest instilled the United match-going bug in thousands of newbies, because it was amazing to see the Stretford End full of even more energy and colour than usual; full of groups of young mates stood together and singing their hearts out.
And let's not forget: we won! It was quietly emotional watching United lift the Youth Cup – such an important trophy in our history, given the Babes and the memory of Munich – for a record 11th time. It reminded me of what this great club is ultimately about: supporting your team, acknowledging and respecting the club's roots, and making sure that your love for United is passed on to future generations. My heart was bursting as I left the ground, and I wasn't the only one.
SAM CARNEY: An emotional occasion
I can’t have been the only Red with a lump in their throat and a tear in the eye last night as United’s next generation clinched the club’s 11th FA Youth Cup in front of an Old Trafford which was packed to the rafters. I haven’t been lucky enough yet to see the senior side win a trophy in M16, but the roar which greeted the final whistle and the subsequent lap of honour left me grinning like an idiot and my hands smarting from the constant applause.
It’s been a tough campaign at a first-team level, but nights like this are what leave you longing for next season and for what this group of players might achieve in the future. It’s a long road and success at this level doesn’t pertain to senior achievements but, for now, the kids are OK!
MIKEY PARTINGTON: So much to smile about
There is naturally so many things and moments to smile about when reflecting on last night – seeing a bumper crowd cheer on the lads, the goals, the trophy lift and so on – but another one in particular that keeps me oozing with pride today is the team’s full-time slide in front of the Stretford End. Having celebrated the victory initially, paraded the pitch, and shaken hands with a commendable Forest side, our victorious players returned to the west side of the stadium while waiting for the trophy presentations to be set up, with a sprint halfway across the pitch before enjoying the synchronised tradition that is often done by a trophy-winning team, on the Old Trafford turf. With cup finals at our home not a frequent occurrence on the calendar, it was a unique scene and one fittingly serenaded by the supporters, making for a special instance that I’m sure many will remember for a long time to come.