Manchester United’s three best players in FA Youth Cup win against Leeds
It was a unique affair at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Manchester United’s support were greeted by 1,400 travelling Leeds United fans and an atmosphere befitting of an historic rivalry was created.
Manchester United’s only goal from Dillon Hoogewerf in the second half and they will now face Wigan Athletic in the quarter-final at home.
Here is a look at the three United players who stood out…
On an occasion like this one, a good captain should step up and drag his team forward. Teden Mengi did exactly that.
At just 17, he’s a regular in the under-23s set-up. Playing at that level has helped his reading of the game to improve greatly at a quick rate. That was on show on Wednesday evening but so was his on-ball ability.
In the first half, with Leeds starting to put some pressure on United, Mengi began to step out of defence. As he did so, a quick step over and good feet got him past the Leeds United midfield.
He opened the game with a wonderful curved cross field pass into the path of Hannibal Mejbri. That was United’s best chance of the first half and although Mejbri missed it, it was a testament to Mengi’s quality from defence.
Rather than his attacking quality, it was Mengi’s defensive timing and interceptions that helped United maintain their victory. A crucial tackle, timed to perfection, and then a storming assault on the ball in the penalty area. Mengi was excellent.
This was a match where Hannibal Mejbri showed the variety in his game. He may be a mercurial midfielder with incredible technical ability and flair, but this was a performance of steel.
Mejbri was continually fouled and that was much of his doing. He has a maturity about him larger than his age. It may be cynical and not in the ‘spirit of the game’ but Mejbri knows when to go down and when to draw the foul.
He’ll have to sleep on his front and will wake up with bruises all over but it was worth it. He was fantastic, drawing the ire of the Leeds players and travelling support.
The recently turned 17-year-old did miss United’s best chance of the half after being played through by Mengi, but he impressed nonetheless.
It was Dillon Hoogewerf’s third goal in the FA Youth Cup when he nodded home in the second half. And it was the goal that won it for United. Hoogewerf worked hard for the Reds and was unfortunate to come off with a hamstring injury reasonably late on.
That injury came about as another trademark accelerate and sprint was in full session from Hoogewerf.
His speed is astonishing and caused serious issues. Had he not pulled up injured in that final sprint, he would have found himself one-on-one with Leeds goalkeeper Sperry.
Hoogewerf’s header itself was a moment of real quality, and so was the cross from Lukasz Bejger.
The perfectly-weighted nature of the cross helped but Hoogewerf met it was equally impressive accuracy and power, watching it nestling in the bottom left corner before a passionate celebration.
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