It was a game of tight margins – with the crossbar hit twice – but Chelsea outdid Manchester United on Friday night to knock them out of the FA Youth Cup at the semi-final stage.
United had their moments in an intense game at St. George’s Park; Anthony Elanga saw a bicycle kick cannon off the bar and Teden Mengi had a free header saved. It wasn’t enough though and Neil Ryan’s side couldn’t create enough without a natural striker in the squad.
Teden Mengi leads United side as commanding captain in FA Youth Cup
Involved with the United first team since the summer, Mengi dropped down to join his teammates for the semi-final. His leadership qualities cannot be underestimated. Though there were no fans in attendance in the Midlands, the game was a loud one. Mengi bellowed instructions out regularly. He is the most experienced player in the United team and it shows in the way he commands others.
It’s also clear in his decision-making and composure. The mental side of Mengi’s game is ahead of others his age and that’s been a key attribute for some years now, especially developed by playing in the under-23s last season.
He made a couple of errors and should have done better with a free header in the second half. But his overall impact to bring the United side together in defence was crucial. Chelsea had the Reds under the cosh for a half-hour period at the start of the game but Mengi and his defensive colleagues kept them out well.
Hannibal Mejbri creates space for others with threat
Can an attacking midfielder have a good game without creating many chances? In this instance, yes.
Mejbri is a talented player and that’s a widely-accepted fact. Chelsea knew it too and crowded him with two or three players at every opportunity. That pressure prevented him from creating much but it drew defenders out from positions and created space for others.
On some occasions, Mejbri escaped the pressure, calmed the game down for United and fed his teammates good balls. His game was not without fault, though. The Frenchman gets easily frustrated.
He’s fouled a lot, yes, but the one flaw in his game is that ability to be triggered easily. Another booking came his way on Friday and it’s a trait he must let go of. Certain players in the United first team like Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford can advise Mejbri on how to keep a cool head when you’re being hacked down.
Charlie McCann offers composure in midfield
Signed from Coventry a couple of years ago, McCann has been one of United’s best players in the FA Youth Cup. His game is a relatively simple one but it’s greatly satisfying to watch. He rarely overcomplicates things but offers a good shield to the defence behind him and has an impressive array of passing qualities.
He contributed a couple of goals earlier in the tournament and came close with a curling effort in the first half against Chelsea. Neil Ryan will be pleased with how he’s played all throughout the Youth Cup.
Shola Shoretire shows what he’s about
As one of the youngest – and smallest – players on the pitch at St. George’s Park, Shoretire showed what he’s about.
His footwork is quick, controlled and exciting. He can hold the ball up well despite his petite stature and he’s got the burst of pace that puts defenders on edge.
At only 16, this wasn’t his last opportunity to have success in the FA Youth Cup and he will be one of the more experienced names in next year’s squad.