Manchester United’s talented under-18 side were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup after a hard-fought semi-final against Chelsea.
It was a missed opportunity to set up a final against local rivals Manchester City in one of the world’s most prestigious youth football tournaments.
United coped with early Chelsea onslaught
Neil Ryan’s young Reds had to deal with a barrage of early pressure from the Londoners, who have been the competition’s most successful side over the last decade. Last-second interventions from Teden Mengi and Charlie McCann were vital in keeping United level in the opening half-hour.
Ondrej Mastny made a couple of good saves and Reece Devine managed to deflect a good effort onto the crossbar.
United grew into the game and a 29th-minute snapshot from Mark Helm was evidence of that. He took a lofted ball down beautifully and, in Rooney-esque fashion, immediately looked up for the shot. His effort was fine, but too low to really challenge Chelsea’s goalkeeper.
Video: Elanga hits crossbar with stunning effort
Anthony Elanga’s effort later in the half was more spectacular but equally unsuccessful. The Swedish winger received a scooped ball from Shola Shoretire in the box, controlled it with his back to goal and his bicycle kick rattled off the crossbar.
In similar fashion to the first half, Chelsea came out at the beginning of the second in intense fashion. They pressed hard and forced mistakes from United. Fiabema found space in the box and powerfully converted the cutback from the right flank to give Chelsea the lead. Based on the rest of the second half’s play, it was deserved.
United had their chances. Mengi headed straight into the goalkeeper’s hands in the 70th-minute. But too often the tactic appeared to be: give Anthony Elanga the ball.
The 18-year-old is a great talent but he couldn’t ever find enough space to seriously threaten Chelsea’s ‘keeper.
Mejbri and Elanga frustrated by Chelsea defence in FA Youth Cup
Elanga was one of a number of more senior players involved in Friday night’s game. Teden Mengi dropped down from the first team squad to captain United at St. George’s Park and he led his side as commandingly as ever.
Hannibal Mejbri always shows his quality in a United shirt but this was a difficult task for him. Chelsea put two or three players on the €10m Frenchman on his every touch. His frustration grew and he picked up yet another yellow card for booting the ball away in frustrating after fouling his marker.
United lacked an outlet up front. Mark Helm led the line well and had some good moments but he’s not a striker. Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill will both be eligible for this season’s edition of the Youth Cup but United could only play those who had been registered for last season’s competition.
Dillon Hoogewerf was injured and Deji Sotona left the club in summer. It meant United struggled to create enough and that was their downfall, as well as being physically weaker than Chelsea.
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