United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

United 2 Chelsea 3: Youth Cup heartbreak as young Reds shoot themselves in the foot

Posted by nickogs20 on November 27, 2008

Man Utd Chelsea
Manchester United U18s 2-3 Chelsea U18s
Morrison 8 Kakuta 42
Welbeck 89 Nouble 45
Borini 84


After last year’s disappointing fourth round FA Youth Cup exit against Carlisle United, United’s U18s were desperate to mount a serious challenge for the trophy this season and to overcome a perilous third round draw that paired them with last year’s finalists Chelsea. The players and coaching staff will go to bed tonight (and will probably wake up tomorrow) wondering just how they will not be in the hat when the draw for the fourth round is made.

Missed chances and defensive lapses were the story of the night as a game United led through Ra’vel Morrison’s early goal and dominated for the first 42 minutes was spectacularly turned on its head by two Chelsea goals in three minutes before half-time. Those strikes (from Gäel Kakuta and Frank Nouble) left the Reds with a mountain to climb, one that eventually became unclimbable when Fabio Borini netted a killer third goal for the Blues on the counter attack. Danny Welbeck’s late effort gave the Reds hope but it wasn’t to be, and for the second straight season Paul McGuinness is left with the task of picking up the pieces after a desperately disappointing early exit from the Youth Cup.

McGuinness’ starting lineup saw Davide Petrucci, star man in the weekend’s win at Blackburn, surprisingly left on the subs bench as Danny Welbeck was brought in for his first Academy game since January as a strike partner for Kiko Macheda. McGuinness opted for the more natural width offered by Morrison and Robbie Brady, rather than including Petrucci in an unfamiliar wide role. At the back, Oliver Gill and Scott Wootton were the chosen centre-back partnership, while Ryan Tunnicliffe got the nod at right-back.

The Reds started off on the front foot and fashioned a golden chance for Welbeck within the first few minutes. Oliver Norwood’s through ball found the Longsight-born striker, 18 yesterday, in acres of space behind the back four and he wasn’t going to be caught. Unfortunately the teenager was gripped by indecision and in the end seemed to take so long deciding whether to chip the keeper or take it round him that he was engulfed by defenders and ultimately robbed by Chelsea keeper Heimann. A disappointing end result but the ease with which the visitors’ defence was breached was hugely encouraging and a sign of things to come.

Just five minutes later United did have the lead. Macheda did well to flick Norwood’s ball on with his head but it looked like Chelsea right-back Ahmed would just get to the loose ball first and clear. Morrison had other ideas, sneaking in to pinch a ball he had no real right getting to before coolly side-footing the ball past Heimann for his third goal of the season, further adding to his burgeoning reputation.

The home side were oozing with confidence at this stage, never seriously looking under threat from a willing but somewhat toothless Chelsea attack while controlling possession in key areas of the pitch and looking a constant threat in attacking areas. Welbeck and Morrison roamed the pitch seemingly with no other instruction than to cause havoc, Macheda worked harder than he probably ever has before to deny the Chelsea defenders any space while Brady was having his best game yet in United red. Unfortunately his game was to end prematurely, the young Dubliner forced from the field just after the half-hour mark by injury. Cameron Stewart was his replacement.

At around the same time, the Reds had another golden chance to add to their lead, Morrison again at the heart of things. The England schoolboy international got in behind the Chelsea defence once more and bore down on Heimann, proceeding to then twist the Blues’ German stopper into knots with a series of feints and spins in a bid to engineer a clearer shooting opportunity. Eventually the 15 year-old laid the ball off to the late-arriving Matt James, whose shot was blocked on the goalline and sat up awkwardly for Morrison, who could only volley over. The youngster’s coolness and obvious ability was a joy to watch, but you couldn’t help wishing he’d maybe got a shot away earlier before defenders in blue were able to get back to save the day.

Nonetheless, at that point the notion that such profligacy could end up costing the Reds seemed an unlikely one, such was United’s control of the match. Football has a way of laughing in the face of any such complacency though and, sure enough, from coasting at 1-0 up as the clock ticked towards 42 minutes, United’s U18s found themselves heading down the tunnel at the interval 2-1 down.

First Norwood’s pass was intercepted by the impressive Philliskirk, whose floated ball to the back post exposed some sloppy United marking and allowing the lurking Kakuta to instinctively toe-poke the Blues level. At that point you just wanted the Reds to get to the break with the scores level – they’d be disappointed but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Unfortunately, more sloppiness at the back meant they couldn’t manage that. Gill’s terrible pass out from the back (or attempted clearance, it was hard to tell) gave Philliskirk the ball once again, the Chelsea captain again having an age to pick a pass. He found Nouble on the edge of the box, who needed no invitation to unleash a venomous left-footed drive that gave Gary Woods no chance.

Two moments of slack concentration and the young Reds had well and truly had the wind taken from their sails. Premier League teams would struggle to get their heads around such a turnaround, let alone a team of under-18s, most of whom were playing in a stadium like Old Trafford for the first time, and that showed in the way United started the second half. The players looked shell-shocked, the confidence that had flowed throughout the team for the first forty minutes seemingly (and understandably) having completely drained away.

Danny Welbeck - third career FAYC goal just a consolation

Danny Welbeck - third career FAYC goal just a consolation

Gradually, the Reds started to adjust to the task that now faced them and began to once more pose a threat to the Chelsea goal. A brilliantly incisive move involving Welbeck, Macheda and Morrison saw James force a terrific double save from Heimann, while a terrific piece of individual skill from Welbeck was sadly not quite match by his chipped finish as Heimann dived at his feet. The Reds seemed to be edging closer and closer towards a deserved equaliser, which made the third Chelsea goal all the harder to take.

It came, somewhat predictably, on the counter-attack, Jacob Mellis finding space down the right. His first attempt at a cross was blocked, his second was even worse but Dudgeon’s attempted clearance was weak and fell to Borini just outside the box. Momentary hesitation from all red-shirted players in the vicinity inexplicably followed, allowing Borini to fire across goal into the far corner with Woods completely unsighted.

That was the game as good as over. Two goals in six minutes plus stoppages was of course doable, but Borini’s goal was a hammer blow. Credit to the Reds, they kept on trying – substitutes Petrucci and Ajose (on for Norwood and Macheda) looked particularly full of running, the former going close with a speculative effort. All Chelsea had to do was avoid any calamities and see out the game, but with the clock approaching the end of the ninety minutes, Blues defender Jeffrey Bruma suffered a lapse of his own that breathed some life back into the contest.

Ajose latched onto Petrucci’s inch-perfect pass, tore past Rohan Ince on the left-wing before checking back inside and firing across what looked to be a fairly tame centre. Bruma proceeded to slice it horrifically when attempting to clear, presenting Welbeck with the opportunity to volley home the loose ball and give United a glimmer of hope.

Alas, it was to be just a glimmer, Chelsea doing very well to either keep possession or win set pieces deep in United territory, far away from where United desperately needed the ball to be. The three minutes of stoppage time seemed to race by as red shirted players frantically tried to get hold of the ball, the full-time whistle typically going just as a break looked on. It just wasn’t to be.

1. Gary Woods
2. Ryan Tunnicliffe
3. Joe Dudgeon
4. Scott Wootton
5. Oliver Gill
6. Matt James
7. Ra’vel Morrison
8. Oliver Norwood (14. Davide Petrucci 73)
9. Kiko Macheda (16. Nicky Ajose 82)
10. Danny Welbeck
11. Robbie Brady (15. Cameron Stewart 33)

Subs not used
12. Kenny Strickland
13. Conor Devlin

Booked: Gill

15 Responses to “United 2 Chelsea 3: Youth Cup heartbreak as young Reds shoot themselves in the foot”

  1. CaptainPark said

    Nick, thanks again for your valuable work. I’m gutted though by the final outcome of the game. I was really looking forward to our young reds going all the way this season considering the quality of the players we have. I hope though, that at least a couple of these young lads (apart from Welbeck) will make it to our 1st team. It never fails to give me great joy to see young homegrown players come through to the pinnacle.

  2. norries said






  3. You need to start playing your excellent youngsters ahead of their age group regularly in order to improve quicker. Too many of youngsters play in the correct age group too often to develop. Bloody Chavski

  4. FA website have the goals


  5. Tone said

    Ra’vel was one of our best players, why should he sit out? And blaming the managment is silly. They played well enough to win this match, they were in full control and created chances. It’s not Paul McGuiness’ fault that the players, much like the first team players, do not take they’re chances, and then defend sloppily three times. It’s a disappointing result, but when they play like that they’re not gonna win the competition…

    BTW, Welbeck can hardly be classified as a first team player!

  6. In the end, because Chavski’s youth were more physically imposing and your youth missed their chances thus the result was kind of evitable but you did play some nice angled combinations.

  7. nickogs20 said

    Supergunner – “You need to start playing your excellent youngsters ahead of their age group regularly in order to improve quicker. Too many of youngsters play in the correct age group too often to develop. Bloody Chavski”

    We do play plenty of our youngsters ahead of their age group in fairness. Welbeck and Macheda are reserve regulars, James would be if we didn’t have so many midfielders on our books, Stewart has played in most of our reserve games this season and Morrison and Tunnicliffe are both U16s playing at U18 level. Some kids develop slower than others and don’t benefit from being played above their age group.

    We more than matched Chelsea and just made some fundamental errors, if that game gets played 100 times I’d fancy us to win more than we lose.

  8. Thats exactly my point, there are some deadwood in front of James blocking his path, James should be playing primarily at reserves level with the odd U18s matches, Ryan and Morrison should have started the season at U18s but they didnt, they started at U16s then moved up. Clear them off, there is no point stocking up players in the range of 20-23 who are clearly not good enough and will stop better kids getting good early experience above their age group.

    The point i was trying to say is that when players is deemed to a find a level too easy, you push him higher up because they will not be learning anything new at the old level. I did not mean push all players higher up, only the ones that are good-to-exceptional potential.

    Your Head of Youth Development and Academy Director needs a new pair of glasses or may be the sack.

  9. nickogs20 said

    Apart from Darron Gibson we don’t really have anyone in the 20-23 bracket. I think it’s harsh to say anyone in front of James is ‘deadwood’, Cleverley/Hewson/Gibson/Possebon/Drinkwater are all very promising players. We should have loaned at least a couple of them out but ‘clearing them off’ would have been (and would still be) extremely unwise.

    It’s easy to say Morrison and Tunnicliffe should have started the season at U18 level but these are kids who aren’t in full-time training, don’t get the same pre-season under their belts and so on – even Arsenal (i’m assuming they’re your side) have only recently brought Benik Afobe into the U18 picture for example. We’ve bedded the pair of them in slowly and they’re now regulars (or near enough) by October/November, I don’t think you can ask much more than that.

    I can see your point but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as straightforward as you’re suggesting.

  10. Cleverly, Hewson, Gibson, Drinkwater long term will probably not be your 1st team regular or reliable 1st team member, also because of your purchasing power in the transfer market. If Fergie saw something very good Cleverly, Hewson & Drinkwater why didnt he start them against QPR and last season when he trusted people like lee martin and eagles against Coventry in the CC. They serioulsy let him down hence he is having to play expensive Anderson and Nani in the CC this season

    As for your comment relating to Afobe, without being direspectful, the level of competition above him in our U18, reserves are very good & are not ordinary [Rory Deacon, Luke Freeman, Rhys Murphy, Rui Fonte who is now U21 international despite being 18 and Jay simpson] whereas apart from the maybe Brady your other young wingers are not players who potential could do the business for your 1st team on a reliable basis so nothing is stopping Morrison from being moved up.

  11. nickogs20 said

    And Morrison has been moved up – I don’t see your point. With the system we play we have Brady, Curran, Ajose, King and Stewart (all youth internationals) competing for the wide roles so like I said, it’s not as straightforward as you’re making out.

  12. Keith said

    Anyone got any clips of Ra’vel Morrison’s – I keep hearing about him but not seen anything yet.

  13. PK said

    Disappointing result. It seems we played well enough to win but as Nick said, some fundamental errors cost us. I’m getting increasingly impressed with Morrison. This kid is gonna be a star when he becomes a permanent fixture next year (that is if he doesn’t do that this year judging by his performances)

    Was really surprised Petrucci started and throwing Morrison as a starter left me scratching my head a little bit but boy, did the kid play. It’s heartbreaking stuff but the lads have got to pick themselves up from this ’cause they were controlling the game for the most part. How they respond this Saturday will be a key to seeing just what type of character these kids possess.

  14. Drogbabas said

    i dont understand why man utd youth have suck defender like Joe Dudgeon,Oliver Gill and kenny strickland all suck defender who is not and youth international.they should have bought quality youngster who is for the future.I think that by the end of the year they must be searching for other clubs cause they suck.faio shud habe played

  15. nickogs20 said

    The players you mentioned don’t ‘suck’ – it’s not feasible to go out and buy a load of 16/17 year olds all the time and no club has a youth team full of youth internationals.

    Fabio is also too old for the Youth Cup so he couldn’t have played.

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