United's FA Youth Cup hopefuls feel club's support
Manchester United's youngsters will kick off our latest FA Youth Cup campaign on Wednesday, with no fans present at Salford City's Peninsula Stadium, although MUTV will screen the game live in the UK and Ireland.
Regardless, the latest batch of Under-18s will be feeling the weight of the club's support behind them as they hope to progress to the fourth round, where a potential home tie with Liverpool has already been drawn out of the hat.
Last season's tournament was belatedly completed after a lengthy delay due to COVID-19, with United edged out 1-0 by eventual winners Chelsea in the semi-final at St George's Park.
Before that game, the players received messages of inspiration from various club figures, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Pogba, who lifted the trophy in 2011.
That triumph, our last in the competition, is now a decade ago and the Reds will be hoping to add to our overall record of 10 wins with a side that has performed well in the 2020/21 Academy campaign so far.
Before the Chelsea match last October, the inspirational video of messages was compiled for Neil Ryan's boys to watch before the big game.
"He [Ryan] stresses this competition is a massive one," midfielder Charlie Savage told us.
“Before Chelsea, our last game in it, we had little messages from people wishing us 'good luck' and it gave us a massive confidence boost.
“There were messages from Paul Pogba and Sir Alex, and the fact they were watching us versus Chelsea. Hopefully, they might be watching us again, against Salford, and I hope we can do them proud."
Lead coach Ryan explained: "I think it was really nice for the semi-final. We had some lovely messages from high-profile figures from the club, and more from players who have been in the Academy and know what it means to represent the club.
“They all have a common bond, it's almost like a brotherhood that passes on from generation to generation. It was lovely for our lads to get some inspiration from Sir Alex and so on, but the boys are more focused on the game, you know, and I don't think we need to inspire them too much to get on that pitch and get playing.
"It's our job to plan and prepare them so they are organised and ready to go," he added. "They've got that drive within them to get them ready, as they will all be champing at the bit because they've had a good break now and are ready to play football."
Current first-team players who have been on the same journey may not be able to attend the match in person due to the current restrictions, as has often been the case in the past, but they will be watching on MUTV, supporting the youngsters.
"I'm sure they will," said Ryan. "I've said before it's a very special tournament for us and we want the boys to be out of their comfort zone, so to speak. At Manchester United, all of the club, the staff involved and everyone holds it [the FA Youth Cup] dearly to our hearts and they'll be rooting for the boys. I'm sure they're looking forward to it."