Manchester United dominated possession but failed to score past 10-man Liverpool in a disappointing FA Youth Cup defeat that extends the club’s wait for further glory in the competition to over a decade.
The Reds won at Anfield en route to lifting the 2011 FA Youth Cup in a side which included Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba. At Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon, though, an exciting frontline could not sufficiently break down Liverpool’s organised defence.
Tyler Morton headed in a wonderful cross from James Norris to give Liverpool a first-half lead. The latter was then dismissed for a reckless challenge in the 67th-minute.
Manchester United knocked out of FA Youth Cup by Liverpool
United welcome experience into exciting frontline
After fielding the most inexperienced line-up in the club’s FA Youth Cup history in the Third Round victory against Salford City, Neil Ryan was able to welcome a great deal of talented and experienced players into his side for Saturday’s game at home to Liverpool.
Five regular starters for the under-23s dropped down, including Joe Hugill. The England striker scored four against Liverpool’s U23s in January, leading to a namedrop from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But despite the attacking talent of Hugill, with Hannibal, Shoretire and McNeill behind him, United struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in the first half.
McNeill did finish past Davies early on after a wonderful through ball from Shoretire, but he was offside. Hannibal shot from range on two occasions but his efforts were blocked and then saved.
Morton heads in Norris cross to give Liverpool lead
Liverpool were content to sit deep, initiate presses suddenly and take advantage of space in-behind the United defence. Their opening goal, though, was not from a long ball forward but rather a wonderfully executed but simple cross from Norris onto the head of Tyler Morton at the back post.
United lacked the fluency we are used to at youth levels, perhaps due to the significant change in line-up. McNeill, for example, played as an attacking midfielder while the side started without a natural winger.
That left the Reds relying on their full-backs to create width and stretch the Liverpool backline. To strengthen United’s quality in that regard, Ryan pushed Alvaro Fernandez to left-back, swapping with Logan Pye who had played the first half there.
Fernandez leads second half charge for United in FA Youth Cup
In the first few minutes after the break, United stormed forward, often led by Fernandez. The defender was signed from Real Madrid last summer and has been consistently brilliant at all levels.
United’s best chance of the game fell to the Spaniard, shooting from close range and watching his effort cleared off the line by Bradley. Hannibal soon danced past three players in the Liverpool box but had his poked shot blocked too. Fish, meanwhile, headed downwards from a Hannibal corner but goalkeeper Davies was equal to it.
United failed to capitalise on that early second half dominance and could have easily let the game lull into a nothingness. The 67th-minute sending off for Liverpool’s Norris prevented that from happening. It was a poor challenge from the full-back who flew into Marc Jurado with his studs up.
United fail to capitalise on man advantage
In truth, though, the Liverpool tactics would have to change little. They had allowed United possession before their red card and continued to do so afterwards. United would still have to improve their final ball and decision-making. Too often players opted to shoot when a cut back would have been better but on other occasions, they complicated things with an extra pass when it was unnecessary.
Going against that trend, Martin Svidersky provided a great first-time cross to the backpost with a minute left. Without a shout from the incoming Iestyn Hughes, Noam Emeran – on as a substitute for McNeill – tried to control it and almost took it off the foot of his teammate. Another wasted opportunity.
Liverpool defended resolutely; every clearance was cheered vociferously from the touchline. Emeran’s corner was headed goalwards by Fernandez but Davies saved well once again. With 30 seconds to go, Shoretire founded space for a shot but took one final touch and allowed his marker to get in and steal it away.
It was one moment of quality from Liverpool that won it. United will be seriously disappointed to go out. They created too few chances in the first half and missed too many in the second.
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