Harry Maguire was in attendance at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening to witness Manchester United’s first semi-final victory in the FA Youth Cup since they last won the competition in 2011.
It’s been a tough period for the youth teams in recent years, but having the club captain come into the dressing room before the important fixture would’ve been a huge boost for Travis Binnion’s side.
Despite going through a tough period of form, the 29-year-old defender was willing to inspire some young players who are desperate to reach the summit of the Manchester United first team one day.
Maguire played an FA Youth Cup final at the Theatre of Dreams, but was on the visiting team as his Sheffield United side fell at the sword of Paul McGuinness’ Manchester United which wielded such talent as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison in 2011.
“He popped down to the dressing room before the game to speak to the boys.” Head of Academy Nick Cox detailed. “He approached us yesterday.
“This isn’t a first, Harry was watching [UEFA Youth League] games at Leigh Sports Village right in the early rounds at the beginning of the season.
“He’s got a keen interest, he watches youth team games. This isn’t a gimmick, it’s not something that he’s done for tonight’s game, this is consistent with his behaviours but obviously it catches the attention tonight.” Cox explained.
It was back in August, just off the back of an impressive summer tournament with England, when it was reported that the captain travelled to Leigh to watch United’s Youth League fixture against Villarreal.
While performances on the pitch must improve and be priority, Maguire’s attitude towards the youth team is something that you’d expect from a Manchester United captain.
He was joined on Wednesday evening by Dean Henderson, who has struggled to register minutes in a season where David de Gea has stood out for a poor United side.
“It was important for the boys to know that they have got support across the club and from the club captain,” Cox said. “So it was nice that he could pop in, say a few words and obviously sit back and watch the game with us up in the directors box along with strong representation from across the club and from many other first team players as well.”
“I’m confident that the boys would’ve been delighted to see Harry there in his usual reassuring and calm manner sharing some words of experience and of course; he’s played in big games here as a youth player, played in a Youth Cup final so it was nice that he could share some of his experiences.”
In the end, the hosts came out 3-0 victors against a solid Wolves side. Charlie McNeill (2) and Alejandro Garnacho got the goals for United as they reached the final for the first time in over a decade, but the entire team performance was one of maturity from the young side.
Rhys Bennett captained the side on the night and was delighted to have Maguire speak to his squad before the encounter.
“It was really nice of him to give us some words of wisdom.” Bennett spoke on his senior defender. “It was a confidence boost having the Manchester United captain take his time to come into the dressing room, it was an amazing feeling.”
Binnion’s side will be aiming to win their 11th FA Youth Cup, meanwhile, their likely opponents – Chelsea – are just one behind United, who sit top, in the all-time winners list in the competition.
Chelsea will face Nottingham Forest on the 26th of March to determine who will face United in the final of the competition before the end of the season.