Teden Mengi will captain Manchester United’s Under 18 side in their FA Youth Cup semi-final against Chelsea tonight.
Neil Ryan’s side won their quarter-final against Wigan back in February, but the pandemic, the next round has been delayed until now.
In the meantime, Mengi has made his senior debut, in the Europa League against LASK in August.
But as per Goal, that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm to see the quest for age group silverware through to the end.
“A lot has happened since [the quarter-final]. I went on to make my debut,” said Mengi. “That’s a real confidence-booster for me.
“Not only me, it’s brilliant for everyone else because I can take my experience and back down to the Under-18 team. It’s a big tournament to win.”
“I was there from the start, so why shouldn’t I be there at the end? I wouldn’t say it’s a compliment, I’d say it’s a given. I want to be there, I want to go on and win the Youth Cup.
“You only get two shots at it in your career and we have a chance to win it and it’s rightly earned. We’ve done really well to get to this point.”
Chelsea stand in United’s way of the final, and they’ve won the trophy ten times – but so have we.
That said, their youth development has largely been distinct from the first team picture.
Their academy is seen somewhat as a way to make money by loaning and selling players, allowing them to balance the books to fund splurges on the first team.
Mengi’s debut since the last round underlines the difference at United, where there is a clear pathway to the first time.
That is something which is clearly very important to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who took great pride in introducing Brandon Williams into the first team picture this season.
Given United’s weaknesses and fitness issues at centre-half, there’s a chance for Mengi to have a similar breakthrough this term.
But not before he’s finished the job he started last season and given his all to bring the FA Youth Cup back to Old Trafford.
United haven’t won the trophy since 2011, when the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard were in the ranks and we’re overdue a triumph. Knocking Chelsea out would be a real statement of intent.
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