FA Youth Cup Preview: Manchester United U18s take on Salford City - how to watch and who will play?

Manchester United finally begin their FA Youth Cup campaign on Wednesday night with a Third Round fixture away at nearby Salford City.

The Reds would normally get stuck into the competition in autumn but coronavirus restrictions have seen a string of delays to play, the latest coming in January when United’s game against Salford was originally scheduled.

This tie is one of 11 to be played with United’s U18 Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, the current holders of the competition, also yet to play. Chelsea, who will equal United’s record of 10 FA Youth Cup titles if they win this year’s edition, lay down a marker with an 8-1 victory against Barnsley in 2020.

If United progress past Salford City at the Peninsula Stadium on Wednesday, they will face either Liverpool or Sutton United in the Fourth Road at home.

How to watch Manchester United vs Salford City in the FA Youth Cup

The club’s official TV channel, MUTV, will screen the game. The club confirmed this via the official website.

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Which Manchester United players are in the FA Youth Cup squad?

17-year-old Shola Shoretire is eligible to play in the Cup for the under-18s but has been a regular on the first team substitutes bench in the last month. Due to coronavirus restrictions and different squad bubbles, the attacking midfielder would be unable to train with the under-18s before playing against Salford if he was to be involved. It’s very unlikely he will be.

Charlie McNeill is expected to lead the line for United. The ex-City striker has scored 14 goals in 13 games for the under-18s this season, including six in his last three. He may be joined by a few younger members of the under-23s squad such as Will Fish who could step down to lead the defence. He played in last year’s tournament alongside captain Teden Mengi.

Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Harvey Neville is another one who may drop down like Fish. He’s been in fine forms for the under-23s recently.

As for the under-18s squad itself, there is plenty of talent. Isak Hansen-Aaroen is not yet ready to play after spending winter in Norway due to COVID-19 restrictions. The star players for the under-18s this season have been Martin Svidersky, an 18-year-old Slovakian midfielder; Radek Vitek, the 17-year-old Czech goalkeeper; Charlie Savage and Charlie Wellens, two lively wingers; and McNeill, the side’s main goalscorer. Zidane Iqbal and Alejandro Garnacho are also exciting individuals.

Will Joe Hugill play for Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup?

The player many will be asking about is Joe Hugill. Alongside Shoretire and Hannibal, Hugill has been the most talked-about member of the United academy this season. Even Solskjaer has had his say. Hugill is very much eligible to play in the FA Youth Cup. He’s still only 17.

In fact, it’s the FA Youth Cup in which Hugill first made his name for former club Sunderland. He scored a hat-trick in the 2019/20 Third Round against Shrewsbury.

Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

He’ll relish an opportunity to play in the tournament. The under-23s, for whom Hugill has mainly played for this season, had no fixture this weekend, making it even more likely that Hugill will be involved.

On the other hand, United’s under-23s do play Brighton on Friday and given the Reds’ depth of quality, he may be spared due to that upcoming fixture.

What can we expect from Salford City’s youth team?

Salford entered the FA Youth Cup at the First Round where a 94th-minute winner from Pedro sealed their route onwards. Finley and Smith had scored Salford’s first two but it required late drama to beat Rochdale 3-2 at home and progress to face Tranmere Rovers. In that Second Round tie, they came from behind to win 2-1.

One former United player, Sam Carr, could be in action for Salford.

This is the second time the two clubs have faced off this season. United’s under-23s routed Salford in the EFL Trophy group stage, putting six past The Ammies at the Peninsula Stadium. Hannibal, Puigmal, Helm (2), McCann and Elanga were the scorers.

Have Manchester United U18s suffered a shock defeat before?

It would be a momentous occasion for Salford if they were to beat United on Wednesday. Shock Cup exits have not been as rare as United would like in recent years. After a Mason Greenwood hat-trick knocked Chelsea out in 2018, United were booted out by Brighton in the next round. In the two years before, the Reds were beaten by Southampton and Derby, despite holding a large array of talent in the squad.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Last year was different. United looked well-drilled and were defeated semi-finalists, losing to Chelsea in October at St. George’s Park. On the way to that semi-final, Neil Ryan’s side beat Lincoln City, Wigan Athletic and Leeds United.

So there have been upsets in the past involving United, but this would be the largest of the lot. Premier League sides dominate the FA Youth Cup due to the significant gap in resources between them and other clubs.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.