Just like in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup, Manchester United eased their way through the world’s most prestigious youth competition.
It was a harder challenge this time, but United made light work of it, dominating the young Canaries at Carrow Road on Tuesday night.
It was no surprise to see which players stood out in the 2-0 win for Neil Ryan’s side. United are trying for a good run in the tournament for the first time in years. Despite having won it more than anyone else, on 10 occasions, United haven’t even reached the final since 2011.
Hannibal Mejbri bosses it in midfield
The mercurial midfielder is living up to his £9.3m price tag. Mejbri’s performance against Lincoln City in the Third Round was fine, but his game revolved around occasional moments of brilliance.
One United scout commented that he was disappointed that Mejbri hadn’t shown more. He operated at second gear.
But this time, the French-Tunisian was in charge. He lifted his game to meet the occasion and showed off his full skillset. The 17-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on the day, was a joy to watch.
He occupies spaces that open up the game, operating in a free role that only footballers with genuine game intelligence can have success in. It can be easy for a player like Mejbri to get lost in a game like this. But despite appearing to have no set ‘responsibility’ or ‘duty’, Mejbri delivered.
He floated around the frontline and midfield, pulling defenders apart and constantly checking over his shoulder. When gets on the ball, in whatever area, he has so many options, either choosing to drive forward as a confident dribbler or playing the quick pass to take apart the defence.
It was a fine performance and Mejbri earned a deserved rest in the final five minutes as he headed to the bench.
Teden Mengi delivers a captain’s performance in defence and attack
United fans won’t be surprised to hear of Mejbri’s excellence, and another impressive display from Teden Mengi will be equally expected. The 17-year-old captained United. He would be the regular skipper for the under-18s had he not been promoted to the under-23s early this season.
Mengi showed his quality, organising the defence and constantly saving United while the Reds were 1-0 up. His speed helps with that, but Mengi’s reading of. the game is what has improved most this season since he’s played in the under-23s. This game was the perfect example of that and Mengi contributed a couple of key interceptions.
And after a couple of key actions in his own half, Mengi doubled United’s lead with a powerful header. Charlie Wellens delivered the corner from the right, Mengi lost his marker and thumped it home. He was good in the air all night, no matter which box he was in.
The rest of the team
The rest of United’s side were equally good. Ondrej Mastny had little to do in goal but Will Fish was right by Mengi’s side for much of the game, reading the game well and cutting out a number of attacks.
In midfield, Mark Helm and Charlie McCann playing well, combining for United’s first goal. Helm delivered a lovely free-kick that won the penalty, with the Norwich defender handballing it. McCann converted from the spot. Away from that goal, the pair both played exceptionally. Unlike Mejbri, who had a free role, they have important roles and fulfilled them. Both have shown good decision-making in the FA Youth Cup so far, knowing when to play the right pass.
Up front, Dillon Hoogewerf had a poor first half, snatching at a couple of chances and dithering for too long on some others. His decision making must improve. But he came into the game and his movement remains very good. It was just his finishing that gave him problems.
Next up for United in the FA Youth Cup is Leeds at home.
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