Binnion: Our boys have resilience and belief

Wednesday 09 March 2022 15:30

Manchester United Under-18s coach Travis Binnion was a special guest on MUTV's weekly discussion show ahead of tonight's FA Youth Cup semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford.

The last-four tie has got everybody at the club talking, including former first-team players Wes Brown, David May, Ben Thornley and Danny Webber who are regular pundits on The Debate

This quartet took the opportunity to ask Travis questions and wish him and his young players the best of luck when he appeared with them on a video call.
Watch Travis Binnion talking to the panel on this week's episode of The Debate.
The ex-professionals were also prompted to share their own memories of playing in the FA Youth Cup, although Thornley was the only one who could claim any real success in the prestigious tournament, having been a member of United's famous winning team in 1992.

"I was fortunate enough to join the club at time when we had some exceptional young players," said Ben. "We won it once, we should have won it twice.

"I think Travis's team have got a great chance of winning it this year, I really do."
Here's a transcript of Travis's interview as part of The Debate...

How excited is everybody, not just the players but the staff as well, for this FA Youth Cup semi-final?
"The lads [on this call] have all played in the competition. I think it's a great memory for all the boys when they look back through their careers, even those lads who've gone on to play in the Champions [League], they look back on those formative years of development, playing with their mates. The whole staff are excited, the lads are excited and we're just getting ready, as we have done for the previous rounds, for the game on Wednesday."

The run to the semi-finals has been brilliant. How impressed have you been with the way your lads have taken this to task?
"I think the pleasing thing is we've got better with each round. We've overcome different challenges and each round has been an opportunity to learn something and get better and come through different situations so I think they're developing nicely as they have done all year. They're a great set of lads, they work hard, they want to get better, and they want to do their best for the club."
Cox: It's been a fantastic cup run Video

Cox: It's been a fantastic cup run

Nick Cox, Head of Academy, reviews our FA Youth Cup progress ahead of Wednesday's semi-final...

Wolves again will offer a different test. What can you tell us about them?
"I think every round has been a little bit more difficult in different ways. Sometimes in these cup competitions you get a top team first and then you might get a slightly easier tie next. But I think there's been an increment for the challenge in each game and I think it will be the same again. I think Wolves will be better than Leicester. They're very athletic, organised, strong. Steve Davis takes them, a former league manager. They work hard, we know that's a given, but physically they're very strong, organised in the shape that they play. They have significant threats at the top end of the pitch and particularly on the counter attack so we've got to be ready for those challenges."

I know your main responsibility as the Under-18s boss is to develop players, to ultimately play in our first team, and results aren't necessarily paramount but that's not true of the FA Youth Cup, is it?
"You don't play in the semi-final not to get to the final, do you? We're in the competition to get as far as we can. So yes we want to win on Wednesday night, to get to the final. We can't look past Wednesday night."

We haven't won the competition since 2011 so as excited as you are, do you also feel the pressure because of the emphasis that is put on winning this trophy at Manchester United?
"Honestly, Ben, I don’t feel that pressure and I don’t think the lads feel that pressure because they’re developing nicely. No one thought at the start of the season this group are definitely going to win the FA Youth Cup. I think they are progressing well, they are seeing development in their own game, they’re gelling together as a team, and we’ve got better with every round. Pressure? I don’t know what the players are exactly feeling, I’m sure they’re all feeling different things. But the level of expectation hasn’t really affected us because it hasn’t been made a thing. Obviously all the players are aware of the history, of how we’ve done in the competition, but that’s part of their formative development. We’re not telling them now, ‘We’ve won it x amount of times, we haven’t done it for this long so we need to go and win it.’ They want to go and do well for themselves and for the club, so I don’t think talking about how long it’s been or when the last time was is of any real significance to them right now."
Travis, you’ve been at Sheffield United, do you see a difference in the way teams approach playing against Sheffield United versus coming to play against Manchester United at Old Trafford, even in the Youth Cup?
"Yes, definitely. I think the way everyone plays now is probably more tactical than it was 15, 20 years ago, so teams come with ideas of how to hurt you or contain you. Obviously everybody who comes to play against us wants to win. Everyone should want to win all the time but you guys know better than anyone how much it means to people to beat this football club, particularly at Old Trafford. So I see a different approach in teams but I think when you get to this stage of the competition, they’ve obviously got good players. Wolves will come with the belief that they can hurt us and they should do."

How significant is it that United are at home at Old Trafford?
"I think it’s a real big advantage to us because we’ve won there three times previously. And I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of that, the comfort the boys have in the dressing room, on the pitch, the surroundings, the belief. We’ve gone behind twice in the last two rounds and come out on top and deservedly so. So that resilience is there and that belief is there."

How important is it to have the fans there to support you, cheering on the lads and watching what should be a fantastic game?
"Yes, it’s really important. You can’t replicate these nights and they’re so few and far between at this stage of their development and the boys deserve all the support that they can get. We’re going to try our best and go there and perform, and to have as many people there to witness it and help us, it will be great."

Fans in the UK can watch the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Wolves live on MUTV, and the United App. Coverage starts at 18:30 GMT with team news, 30 minutes before kick-off at Old Trafford.