Manchester United under-18s are facing Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford this evening in the FA Youth Cup final.
It’s an award that is fondly remembered throughout the history of the club. United could become 11-time winners if all goes well at the Theatre of Dreams against Warren Joyce’s side.
A record-breaking crowd will attend the fixture — with the game selling out tickets 24 hours before kick-off — and it will be a wonderful experience for the players, who would never have fathomed of playing in front of 70,000 supporters before ever reaching the first-team.
Yet, with all of the attention driven towards this final, since there’s little to shout about in regard to first-team accomplishments this campaign, there needs to be an understanding among those who tune into the match that this is not a defining moment for the young players on the pitch.
With frustration boiled amongst the fanbase after a disastrous season for the men’s side, this should provide a pleasant distraction for many supporters who aren’t familiar with the youth sides.
It should not, however, be another beating stick for some of those to take their anger out on if the young Reds are unable to lift the trophy at the end of the night.
While lifting the youth cup for the 11th time would be a great feeling, an even better one would be if United are able to bring through some of these players as valuable assets to the first-team in years to come.
A view which is echoed by Travis Binnion, Under-18s manager, he told MEN: “We want to win the Youth Cup but if five, six, or seven of these boys go on and play in the Premier League and become household names, that is a far greater achievement.”
They’re already on their way in that department, with Alejandro Garnacho’s first-team debut coming in the form of a short cameo against Chelsea in the Premier League two weeks ago.
“He [Garnacho] comes on the other night [against Chelsea] and doesn’t touch the ball, but the reception he gets for two minutes, I don’t think you get that at other clubs,” Binnion proclaimed.
“It is the culmination of years and years of work. He has done something that most people will never do in their lifetime and he will go on and get better and better.
“A month ago he was part of this group and now he is part of the first-team squad. It is inspirational because there are boys in the group who feel they are going to be better than him and you have to have that belief in yourself as a player.”
The young winger will certainly be one to watch in the final, but like his teammates, he will not be defined by a one-off game in his youth career. Don’t try and define these players on this game. Instead, sit back and enjoy the passion and hard work that will undoubtably be shown on the Old Trafford pitch.