Charlie McNeill & Alejandro Garnacho star as Manchester United reach first FA Youth Cup final since 2011

Manchester United’s under-18s reached the FA Youth Cup final for the first time in over a decade after dominating a semi-final fixture against Wolves, with Charlie McNeill and Alejandro Garnacho providing the finishes in a strong 2-0 victory.

The young Reds had beaten Scunthorpe, Reading, Everton and Leicester City on their way to the semi-final at Old Trafford and were hoping to reach their first final in the competition since the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard won it in 2011 against Harry Maguire’s Sheffield United.

With the United skipper in attendance at the Theatre of Dreams alongside the likes of Dean Henderson, Nick Cox and Darren Fletcher, United’s youngsters were looking to provide a good performance under the lights.

With all of the attention placed on Alejandro Garnacho, who scored a brace against Leicester City in the previous round and was subsequently called up to the provisional squad for the Argentina national team, it was only fitting that Charlie McNeill was there to remind United supporters about his immense talent after just 16 minutes in the game.

The English striker latched onto the end of Isak Hansen-Aaroen’s splendid pass in behind Wolves’ backline and slotted home with conviction to score his 12th of the season after rounding Palmi Arinbjornsson beforehand.

It was not long afterwards when McNeill turned provider for Garnacho, however, this time the goalkeeper was equal to the close-range strike from the winger.

Travis Binnion would’ve been disappointed to not see his team double their lead when chances from McNeill and Hansen-Aaroen went awry mid-way through the half. Yet, as he went into the tunnel for the interval, there would’ve been a sigh of relief after Nathan Fraser saw his chipped effort hit the post towards the end of the half after the opportunity came from a slip from Radek Vitek.

Garnacho has showed how dangerous that his immense pace can cause defensive units at this level, perhaps best shown through his late goal against Everton where he ran the length of the pitch, and he was able to do it again in order to score United’s second of the match.

Sam Mather was provider after launching the ball into the front line and Garnacho took it into his stride and drove into the penalty area. He jinked and turned inside before curling the ball into the far corner with a brilliant finish.

The young side were putting on a show for the 6,133 supporters who made their way to Old Trafford on the night to cheer on the youngsters on a cold Wednesday evening where it would’ve been easy to sit at home and watch the Champions League fixtures on television.

In the dying embers of the match it was a third for the hosts and it was McNeill to double his tally in the game. With Garnacho’s half-volley parried centrally, it left McNeill an empty net to finish into and seal a sweet victory for United.

In the end, it was a strong performance where United dominated the ball with their midfield three in control for large periods. The magic was produced by the two likely suspects who sit joint-top in the goalscoring ranks for the competition this season with five each.

The reds will face either Chelsea or Nottingham Forest in the final and will be looking to bring silverware back to the club that has been desperately missing some in recent times, in the first team and in the youth sides.

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