Preview: FA Youth Cup final
More than 67,000 tickets have already been sold for the FA Youth Cup final at Old Trafford, which will be contested by Manchester United and Nottingham Forest in a week’s time.
The FA Youth Cup is one of the world’s most prestigious and storied youth football tournaments. Its alumni stretches from United’s own Busby Babes – five-time consecutive winners in the 1950s – to current Premier League stars like our own Tom Heaton (2003 winner), Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard (2011 winners) as well as Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe, Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, Chelsea’s Reece James, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher and Newcastle United’s Kieran Trippier.
United last reached the final in 2011, when a team featuring Lingard and Pogba took on Sheffield United, for whom both current Reds club captain Harry Maguire and U18s lead coach Travis Binnion were involved.
The Youth Cup is intrinsically linked to the story of United. Our 10 victories, the first of which came in the competition’s inaugural year in 1953, chronicle how the Academy has proved the bedrock of success here. First came the Jimmy Murphy-led five-time winners (1953-57). The Busby Babes catapulted United to the English title and the conquering of Europe seemed sure to follow until the Munich Air Disaster.
The club’s subsequent recovery required the talents of the youth sides to step up, none more prominent than Bobby Charlton – three-time Youth Cup winner. Soon came another, George Best, in 1964, and United finally won the European Cup in 1968. A down period followed, mirroring that of the first team, until the 1982 youth stars Clayton Blackmore, Mark Hughes and Norman Whiteside helped Ron Atkinson’s side to FA Cup glory in 1983 and 1985. In 1992, Eric Harrison guided United to Youth Cup victory. That team’s fame has lasted more than a generation and needs little introduction. It sparked United’s greatest period of success, and the members of the 1992/93 team made a combined 3500 appearances for the club.
This 2022 side is clearly among great company. To get to this stage, the young Reds have played five games, four of them at Old Trafford.
“It’s been amazing playing at Old Trafford,” Stockport-born creative midfielder Kobbie Mainoo says. “It’s incomparable,” his tenacious partner Dan Gore adds.
Their captain, centre-back Rhys Bennett, says the team “can’t take it for granted.”
“You don’t know how many times you’re going to step out at Old Trafford. Every single time you do, you’ve got to just embrace it, go and give your all and keep working hard to play as many games here as possible. I love it every time I step out at Old Trafford; it’s just an amazing feeling.”
It has been a privileged run, playing all-but-one game at home and at English football’s biggest club stadium. The journey to the final began with a hard-fought 4-2 win against Scunthorpe United which emphasised the beauty of this competition.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022 FA Youth Cup final...
The match will be played at Old Trafford on Wednesday 11 May (19:30 BST) and supporters are encouraged to support the team by attending. Tickets were available to purchase now for £1, with all proceeds going to the Manchester United Foundation. All tickets are now sold out.
FA YOUTH CUP RULES
Only players between the age of 15 and 18 on 31 August 2021 are eligible to take part.
When a match is drawn after 90 minutes, an extra 30 minutes shall be played (15 minutes each way), if the score is still level at the end of extra time, the winner shall be determined by a penalty shootout.
FA YOUTH CUP HISTORY
United are the most successful club in FA Youth Cup history, winning the competition on 10 occasions (1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1964, 1992, 1995, 2003 and 2011) and reaching a further four finals (1982, 1986, 1993, 2007).
The club's best performance in the last few years was a semi-final appearance in 2019/20.
United and Forest have met only once in the U18 Premier League this season, with our home fixture against Warren Joyce’s side set to be played four days after the Youth Cup final on Saturday 15 May (12:00 BST).
Earlier this season (6 November 2021), the two Reds met at The Nigel Doughty Academy and a goal in each half, first from Nottinghamshire-born striker Manni Norkett and then Sam Mather, secured victory for United.
Travis Binnion’s side have enjoyed a relentless fixture schedule since the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Wolves on 9 March, with 13 matches played. The regular FA Youth Cup starting XI has rarely been seen in its full form during this run of games, with Binnion and his assistants using the full squad to manage the workload.
Most recently, the young Reds managed a comfortable 3-0 win over Derby County, with goals from Norkett, Charlie McNeill and Mather. You can see all recent results here, and catch up on more detailed match information here.
Forest enjoyed six victories in April, including their semi-final win over Chelsea at the start of the month. Former Reds Reserves boss Joyce’s team kept four clean sheets in five league wins over Burnley, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and Liverpool.
Travis Binnion (Man Utd)
Our U18s lead coach joined Manchester United in November 2019 after leaving his boyhood club Sheffield United that summer. Binnion had first been a player – before injury curtailed his career aged 21 – and then an Academy coach with the Blades, working with many current Football League players, including Harry Maguire. Others include Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The 35-year-old’s first role here was as head of player development U14-16, a position he still holds, before taking on his current job in 2021.
Warren Joyce (Nottingham Forest)
A fantastic servant of United for eight years (2008-2016) in his role as Reserves manager, Joyce led the side to several notable achievements, including five league titles. Joyce enjoyed a good playing career at Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and Hull City, becoming player-manager of the latter side before a stint at Royal Antwerp preceded his time at United. He left in 2016 to become Wigan Athletic boss before roles at Melbourne City, Salford City and now Forest, where he has led the club to their first-ever FA Youth Cup final.
Alejandro Garnacho (5)
An explosive Argentina-Spain left-winger who has represented both countries at youth level, most recently training alongside Lionel Messi as part of La Albiceleste’s senior squad. Prolific at all levels this season, Garnacho has been a substitute in several recent first-team games and made his debut late on against Chelsea. Hard-working and determined with a powerful dribbling style and quick shot, Garnacho has scored in all-but-one FA Youth Cup game. His finishes have been varied, from an acrobatic finish to down Scunthorpe and a wonderful late solo run against Everton to a drilled free-kick and accurate left-footed strike against Leicester and an emphatic curler to seal the win versus Wolves.
Charlie McNeill (5)
The Manchester-born forward grabbed a double in the semi-final against Wolves and has finished with composure throughout, once from the spot, once in a tight space and another when rounding the goalkeeper. McNeill returned to United in 2020 after a prolific spell at Manchester City. He has regularly found the net in the U18 Premier League and UEFA Youth League as well as in this competition, where he’s led the line every time for United.
Sam Mather (3)
The local winger is excellent at finding space in the box and opened the scoring in this year’s campaign with a tap-in from a Garnacho pull-back. He’s been a consistent threat throughout the tournament and has shown good league form too.
Esapa Osong (5)
The 17-year-old has developed into a fine forward since joining Forest from a grassroots Sunday league club in his early teens. He scored the winner and the clincher in the semi-final victory over Chelsea and said, “it was crazy; I’ve never felt anything like it.” Osong is Forest’s top goalscorer in the FA Youth Cup, Premier League 2, U18 Premier League and U18 PL Cup this season and will no doubt be a threat to United’s centre-back pairing of Bennett and Tyler Fredricson.
Dale Taylor (3)
Capped by Northern Ireland’s senior side in November 2021, 18-year-old Taylor joined Forest from Linfield in July 2020 and signed professional in the same year. He has quick feet, physical strength, an outgoing character, a good finish and a bright future ahead of him.
Jack Nadin (3)
The 17-year-old Englishman plays at no.10 for Forest but was sadly stretchered off injured in their semi-final. There’ll be every hope that he can return in time for the final, having been crucial in the run there.
ROUTES TO THE FINAL
Third Round: 4-2 v Scunthorpe (H)
Garnacho’s acrobatic finish lit this game up as United were tested by a resilient Iron. Further goals came from Mather, Maxi Oyedele and McNeill.
Fourth Round: 3-1 v Reading (A)
Ruthless and clinical finishing was the difference between the sides in Berkshire as Mather, McNeill and Mainoo found the net in the first half.
Fifth Round: 4-1 v Everton (H)
After conceding early, United responded well and dominated the Toffees with McNeill, Mainoo, Mather and Garnacho goals emphatically overturning Francis Okoronkwo’s 12th-minute opener.
Quarter-final: 2-1 v Leicester City (H)
Another first-half goal sent United behind, but two moments of quality from Garnacho, after a series of second-half chances for the Reds, secured progress.
Semi-final: 3-0 v Wolves (H)
A first clean sheet was much appreciated after an excellent and dominant display, marked by goals from McNeill (2) and Garnacho.
Third Round: 3-1 v Bristol City (H)
Forest’s top three goalscorers all contributed in this well-deserved victory at the City Ground.
Fourth Round: 2-1 v Peterborough United (A)
The first of three away ties saw Taylor put Forest ahead and Nadin score a winner in a dominant second half.
Fifth Round: 0-0 v Cambridge United (A)
Penalties were needed to split the two sides after a resolute display by Cambridge over 120 minutes. Forest triumphed 5-3 in the shoot-out.
Quarter-final: 3-1 v Blackburn Rovers (A)
A controlled performance from the off saw Forest take a two-goal half-time lead and never look back. Nadin scored the first and Osong scored one in each half before a late consolation from Rovers.
Semi-final: 3-1 v Chelsea (H)
Having trailed for the first time in the campaign – to a deflected shot – Forest scored twice in five minutes to come from behind and defeat Chelsea. Osong set up Dale Taylor’s late equaliser before scoring twice, the first from the penalty spot, to win it late on in dramatic fashion.
HOW TO WATCH AND TV INFORMATION
Supporters can watch the match live on MUTV. Subscribe here.