When Beckham and Butt dazzled at Palace
Manchester United begin our defence of the FA Youth Cup with a tough away tie in the third round at Crystal Palace on Sunday (15:00 GMT, live on MUTV in the UK and Ireland).
Eric Harrison’s side were relatively comfortable, considering the magnitude of the occasion, although hindsight would explain why. The opening goal came on 17 minutes from Nicky Butt, a young midfielder who would go on to star for club and country, earning 39 England caps.
The second strike arrived on the half-hour mark from a 25-yard bullet by a certain David Beckham, back in his native London. Little did we know then that he would go on to play 115 times for the Three Lions and develop into one of the most famous sportsmen on the planet.
Four years later, the same stadium would be the scene of one of his greatest strikes for United, a chip from the halfway line over Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan on the opening day of the 1996/97 Premier League campaign. The Dons were groundsharing with Palace at the time.
Palace did score in the first minute in Manchester, through Andy McPherson, but we ultimately swept the young Eagles aside 3-2 on the night, 6-3 on aggregate.
Ben Thornley’s solo strike and Simon Davies’s drive put the Reds back in full control and, although McCall beat Kevin Pilkington to level the second leg at 2-2, Colin McKee glanced in Ryan Giggs’s cross to provide the icing on United's cake. Butt would have scored the best goal of the tie, had his overhead kick not been denied by Glass's flying save.
Giggs did not play in the first leg in the capital as he was needed for the senior team's home game with Southampton in the old Division One, a couple of days later. The boy wonder helped the Reds earn a 1-0 win, courtesy of a goal from fellow winger Andrei Kanchelskis, that seemed to put us on course for the title, only for the fixture backlog to contribute to a late collapse, which allowed Leeds United to take the trophy.
The strength in depth at Harrison’s disposal was remarkable. Gary Neville captained the team at centre-back, alongside England youth colleague Chris Casper, while Robbie Savage, whose son Charlie appeared again for the first team against Cadiz in midweek, played up front.
Beckham and Butt were a great midfield combination and seven years after the Youth Cup triumph over Palace, the homegrown duo were paired in the engine room for the unforgettable 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona, in the absence of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Giggs switched from the left to Beckham's usual berth on the right and formed a rare partnership with Neville at Camp Nou as Alex Ferguson's Reds clinched the Treble in dramatic fashion.
Fans in the UK and Ireland can see how the latest batch of United youngsters fare away to Palace in the FA Youth Cup by watching our live coverage on MUTV, ManUtd.com and the United App this Sunday afternoon (15:00 GMT kick-off).