FA Youth Cup final 2022: Man Utd stars to watch vs Nottingham Forest, from Alejandro Garnacho to Joe Hugill

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United take on Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford on Wednesday bidding for a record 11th competition triumph

FA youth cup final 2022: man utd stars to watch vs nottingham forest, from alejandro garnacho joe hugill

United youngster Alejandro Garnacho has already made his Premier League debut (Photo: PA)

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By Ben Hart

Over 60,000 fans will be in attendance at Old Trafford to watch Manchester United take on Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup final on Wednesday.

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Tickets cost just £1 and all proceeds will go to the Manchester United Foundation.

United have won this trophy a record 10 times but have not made the final since 2011. On that occasion Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard started both legs of a 6-3 aggregate victory over Sheffield United.

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With United’s senior side having endured another disappointing campaign, the onus falls on the under-18 squad to deliver some form of silverware for the red half of Manchester.

The final also provides the opportunity to audition for a role in the first-team next season. Incoming manager Erik ten Hag is sure to take a keen interest in individual performances, if not the outcome of this match, considering his reputation for promoting youth talent.

i takes a look at who the Dutchman will be paying close attention to, and those who could become household names in years to come.

Alejandro Garnacho

Winger Garnacho may have trained with Lionel Messi after a call-up to Argentina’s senior squad in March, but it’s the other outstanding talent of the last generation whose profile provides a closer match.

As a right-footed left-winger with blistering pace and power, Garnacho has already drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo.

When Garnacho made his debut against Chelsea in April he was 256 days younger than when Ronaldo earned his first United appearance in 2003.

Garnacho has impressed enormously in his first season for the under-23 side, scoring four times in 12 appearances and a further five goals in the FA Youth Cup, making him United’s top scorer in the competition.

His goal reel this term makes remarkable viewing, with this solo effort in the last minute of the fifth round against Everton providing just a glimpse of what the 17-year-old can do.

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Alejandro Garnacho ???? pic.twitter.com/bf5EnB4EWo

— utdreport Academy (@utdreportAcad) February 9, 2022

Charlie McNeill

Something of a phenomenon at youth level, striker McNeill scored 110 goals in 72 games for Manchester City’s under-15s.

Add 38 assists to that season’s numbers and it’s no surprise that Adidas offered the youngster a lucrative deal at the age of just 14.

McNeill has scored over 600 times at youth level for Liverpool, City, and most recently United, having returned to the club he supports in 2020 after six years away.

The 18-year-old scored a brace in the semi-final against Wolves and is in fine form having scored three in his last two U18 Premier League fixtures.

Joe Hugill

Standing at 6ft 2ins, Hugill provides more of an aerial threat than McNeill but is equally potent in front of goal.

He is United’s top scorer in the U18 Premier League, netting on average every 92 minutes for his 12 strikes.

Signed from Sunderland in July 2020, Hugill impressed immediately at U18 level and scored on his first start in the Premier League 2 with a brace against Blackburn.

Later that season he was namechecked by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when United’s former boss asked why Hugill passed up the chance to take a penalty in a fixture against Liverpool. Hugill had already scored four in that game and so offered the spot-kick to new signing Amad Diallo.

How to watch: FA Youth Cup Final

  • Date: Wednesday 11 May
  • Kick-off: 7.30pm
  • Stream: Online via MUTV or the FA Player

Rhys Bennett

The Red Devils defensive stability is provided by Bennett, who unlike the aforementioned forwards has been at United his entire career.

Bennett has been a key figure for the U18s side since his first appearance as a 16-year-old.

Earlier in the season he spent a week with AFC Wimbledon as part of United’s professional development programme.

Justin Cochrane, United’s head of player development and coaching, outlined the benefits of the scheme via the club’s website: “It’s an opportunity for the young players to go into senior environments in the league.

“They spend a week with teams, where I know the manager and the environment they have there, just to get a feel of what men’s football is really like.

“They get the full ‘open door’ in terms of seeing what it’s like in training, meetings, doing a warm-up for a game – all they don’t do is play in a game.

“It’s a great experience for these young players, who are predominantly used to playing in youth fixtures, just to feel the different levels of intensity and what’s required of them in a men’s environment.”

The Forest stars out to stop them

Standing in United’s way are a Forest side who have never previously reached this stage of the competition.

It could be a very good month for the Midlands outfit with Steve Cooper’s senior side in contention for promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.

After years of stagnation at the City Ground the feel-good factor has resonated throughout the club, with over 6,000 fans expected to make the trip to Manchester for the final.

Forest trailed nine-time winners Chelsea 1-0 with five minutes to go in the semi-final. Esapa Osong inspired a dramatic turnaround with two late goals to book their spot in the final.

The 17-year-old is Forest’s top goalscorer across four separate youth competitions this season and will carry their goal threat alongside Dale Taylor.

Taylor has already earned international recognition, having made his senior debut for Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier in November 2021.

That cap came the week following United’s 2-0 victory over Forest in the U18 Premier League North.

The pair meet again on Saturday, with the winner claiming third spot in the league.

But it’s Wednesday’s final that will mean far more to the young stars representing these two famous clubs.

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