United knocked out of FA Youth Cup
Manchester United's Under-18s were beaten 3-1 by Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Youth Cup fourth round at Leigh Sports Village, with Di'Shon Bernard's late consolation proving in vain but at least preserving the record of the side scoring in every game under head coach Neil Ryan.
The Reds have lifted the trophy a record 10 times and knocked out Chelsea, who moved onto nine victories in the competition last year, in round three during a dramatic night at Leigh Sports Village.
At the same venue, there was another opportunity for Ryan's side to gain valuable experience of knock-out football with high stakes against a Seagulls team that nobody was underestimating after they moved past West Ham United at the first hurdle.
Although without Ethan Laird and Charlie McCann, there were starts for James Garner and Mason Greenwood, who were part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first-team training camp in Dubai recently.
Ryan Giggs was sat next to Head of Academy Nicky Butt in the stands, with both players having won the prestigious tournament in 1992, but things soon started going against the hosts and it ended up being a disappointing evening. Peter Gwargis, Ryan Longman and Haydon Roberts did the damage as Albion executed their game-plan perfectly by playing largely on the break.
At least there is another big tie at the weekend, in the Under-18 Premier League Cup, at Liverpool to look forward to as the tests keep coming for our talented crop of teenagers. Although there will be no more matches in the FA Youth Cup to further the education, it is worth remembering the chief aim is getting players into the first team. Marcus Rashford, for instance, only got as far as the fifth round when Chelsea won convincingly in 2016.
Brighton set their stall out from the start with a cyncial foul on Greenwood almost punished by James Garner's free-kick, that beat keeper Roco Rees but crashed against the bar. Inspired by the let-off, the visitors hit the woodwork themselves through Gwargis and, with the danger not cleared, Roberts was nudged by Aliou Traore to earn a penalty. Gwargis calmly fired the spot-kick past James Thompson.
The Reds were rocked when caught by a rapid counter-attack after 14 minutes as skipper Longman cut inside from the left and delivered an exquisite curler into the corner of the net to double the lead.
Although Rees made a string of saves, most of them were relatively comfortable, as United were restricted to shooting from distance. Teden Mengi did pop a header off target and Ethan Galbraith lashed a fierce drive wide but Rees was equal to efforts from Greenwood, Garner and Dylan Levitt. Garner came closest to pulling one back in the first half when latching onto a Traore lay-off but rolling a side-footer just the wrong side of the post.
It was nip and tuck after the break, with Levitt blasting over early in the half but Danny Cashman caused problems on the break. It looked like he had won another penalty when going over a Bernard tackle but referee Mike Barlow rightly decided there was no contact. Greenwood continued to try his luck, without any success, and a third goal really left United with a mountain to climb.
Gwargis's free-kick was headed against the bar from close range by Longman and Roberts nodded in the rebound to make it 3-0 to the Seagulls, who had scored with all three attempts on target.
Although Cashman was close to a fourth, and was also superbly tackled by Mengi when he raced clear, most of the pressure came from the Reds. Substitute Largie Ramazani was denied when Roberts cleared off the line and Greenwood thundered his best effort yet into the side-netting, as he dropped deeper in an attempt to further influence proceedings.
When Garner's free-kick could not be bundled in, it became clear this was not going to be our night, but Bernard, who was pushed into attack, managed to grab a consolation. The defender bundled home after Anthony Elanga's shot, from Ramazani's cross, was palmed out by Rees. It was the 50th goal scored by the team this term but not enough to prevent Brighton moving on to face Everton in the fifth round.
United: Thompson; Puigmal (Ramazani 64), Bernard, Mengi, B. Williams; Garner, Galbraith (Elanga 59), Traore; Levitt, Mellor, Greenwood.
Substitutes not used: Carney, Devine, McGhee.
Scorers: Bernard 89 | Gwargis 6 (pen), Longman 14, Roberts 55.
United face another big tie on Saturday (11:00 GMT), when making the trip to Liverpool in the Under-18 Premier League Cup.
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