Man Utd's latest FA Youth Cup stars - 600-goal wonderkid and Lionel Messi's new teammate

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Manchester United haven't had much to celebrate this season, but they have a chance to end on a high note when their under-18 side takes on Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup final on Wednesday evening.

Those involved will be keen to impress incoming manager Erik ten Hag, after watching plenty of academy players come through the ranks and earn first-team minutes over the years.

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Anthony Elanga has been the stand-out academy graduate this season, but there have also been opportunities for the likes of Hannibal, Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage among others.

United last won the competition back in 2011, with Jesse Lingard scoring in a 6-3 aggregate win over Sheffield United and Paul Pogba starting in central midfield. Other members of that team have gone on to win England caps when playing elsewhere – Michael Keane at Burnley and Everton and Sam Johnstone at West Bromwich Albion – while others including Tom Lawrence and Ravel Morrison have carved out careers for themselves since leaving Old Trafford.

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But what of the next generation; the players looking to beat Forest and cap off an impressive season in the midst of chaos around the first team? Mirror Football has picked out some of the ones to watch.

Alejandro Garnacho

Garnacho's impressive rise this season means plenty of eyes will be on him on Wednesday night. The Argentine recently made his first team debut for United under Ralf Rangnick, playing the final few moments of the draw against Chelsea after previously being an unused substitute.

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Perhaps the bigger story of the young midfielder's season has been the battle for his international future. The 17-year-old had represented Spain at age-group level, but in 2022 he earned a senior Argentina call-up from manager Lionel Scaloni and had a chance to train with the likes of Lionel Messi.

Garnacho was gifted the match ball by Cristiano Ronaldo after United's victory over Norwich, and appears to have been taken under the wing of the veteran. His Youth Cup achievements stand on their own, though, with five goals and three assists across his five appearances in the competition.

Which Youth Cup finalist is most likely to become a Man Utd regular? Have your say in the comments section

Man utd's latest fa youth cup stars - 600-goal wonderkid and lionel messi's new teammate

Garnacho made his Premier League debut this season ( Image: REUTERS)

Rhys Bennett

United are expected to be led out by Rhys Bennett, who captained the side on their journey to the final. The centre-back has played a handful of Premier League 2 games this season, as well as getting regular minutes in the UEFA Youth League, and spoke to the club's website about the excitement of playing at the home stadium.

“You don’t know how many times you’re going to step out at Old Trafford,” Bennett said. Every single time you do, you’ve got to just embrace it, go and give your all and keep working hard to play as many games here as possible. I love it every time I step out at Old Trafford; it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Manchester-born Bennett scored his first goal in United colours earlier this season, netting in a 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Youth League. Several players from that side have earned first-team minutes, and he'll hope to do the same.

Kobbie Mainoo

Man utd's latest fa youth cup stars - 600-goal wonderkid and lionel messi's new teammate

Mainoo has minutes for United's under-18s and under-23s this season ( Image: Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Another local product, midfielder Mainoo was born in Stockport. The creative starlet has also described the Old Trafford experience as “amazing,” having stepped out onto the pitch in previous rounds.

Mainoo only turned 17 in April, but has played his part in the run to the FA Youth Cup final. He netted in a 3-1 win at Reading in the fourth round before scoring in the home victory over Everton in the last 16.

The teenager began his youth career as a striker, but has dropped deeper and continued to impress. He partnered Daniel Gore in midfield in the semi-finals, and the pair could line up together once more.

Isak Hansen-Aaroen

Man utd's latest fa youth cup stars - 600-goal wonderkid and lionel messi's new teammate

Norwegian starlet Hansen-Aaroen made his club debut at 15 ( Image: Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Hansen-Aaroen was in high demand before moving to United. Liverpool and Everton were both alerted to the Norwegian's exploits, and he was just 15 years old when he made his senior bow for Tromso in his home country.

United won the race, officially signing him in 2020 when he turned 16, and they haven't been rushing the under-18 international into the first-team. Instead, he's been allowed to develop at his own pace, though he's broken into the under-23 side this term.

Now 17, Hansen-Aaroen has started four of United's five FA Youth Cup games. He registered an assist against Wolves in the semi-final, helping the team complete a 3-0 win.

Charlie McNeill

Man utd's latest fa youth cup stars - 600-goal wonderkid and lionel messi's new teammate

McNeill has five goals in this season's FA Youth Cup ( Image: Getty Images)

Speak to a lot of United fans and they'll tell you McNeill is the one to get excited about. The striker racked up a stunning 600 goals in Manchester City's youth ranks before making a sensational move across the city in 2020.

A boyhood United supporter, the 18-year-old has had no trouble finding the net. He scored 24 times in 21 league games last season for United's under-18s, as well as netting on his FA Youth Cup debut for the club last term, and has kept it going this time around.

His 17 goals in all competitions in 2021-22 have included four in Premier League 2 and five in this season's FA Youth Cup. He scored two of United's three in the semis, and registered a goal and an assist in two separate games earlier in the competition.

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