Sheffield Utd will hope to emulate Leeds Utd’s class of 1993 when they face Manchester United at Old Trafford next Monday as they bid to win the FA Youth Cup for the first time in their history.
The Leeds side of ’93 famously became the first side from Yorkshire to win the competition, beating Man Utd 2-0 at Old Trafford to set up a 4-1 aggregate win.
That Leeds team, which included the likes of Noel Whelan and Jamie Forrester was expected to be overwhelmed by Red Devils eleven containing Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes.
And Sheffield Utd’s youngster similarly find the odds stacked against them.
After Man Utd hammered Chelsea 4-0 in the semi final second leg former player Gary Neville hailed them as the best crop of players to come through the club’s ranks since his time.
Their line up next week is likely to include first-team debutant Ravel Morrision and other highly rated youngsters like Ryan Tunnicliffe, Paul Pogba, Tom Thorpe and Will Keane.
Sheffield Utd by contrast are expected to name six first year Apprentices in their side all of whom will still be eligible for the competition next term but crucially the likes of Jordan Slew and Harry Maguire have featured at first-team level this term.
“We’ve worked with the first years this year a lot and I think 8 or 9 of them were involved in the first game so it’s really encouraging from that perspective. Obviously the likes of Harry and Jordan have been with the first team so that helps but we were always going to be second favourites in many people’s eyes for this tie,”
said Sheffield Utd Academy Manager, John Pemberton.
While the Red Devils may be favourites on paper the outcome is very much in the balance after a 2 – 2 draw at Brammall Lane on Tuesday night.
Callum McFadzean and Slew twice equalised for the home side in a compelling first leg and the Blades will travel across the Pennines in good heart.
“I was only talking to the lads the other day about when we went away to Ireland in pre-season, if you had said to them then that the last game of the season would be at Old Trafford playing in the Youth Cup Final they would’ve snapped your hand off,” added Pemberton.
“On our day we are more than a match for anyone, we’ve proved that over the course of the season and we went to Villa Park in the semi and won there. We’ve just got to get out of the blocks quicker in the first twenty minutes.”
“On Tuesday Man Utd were the better side in the first half and I think a few of our lads took a little bit of time to adapt to playing in front of such a large crowd (29,977) but once we got going we proved we could live with them.”
“I’m expecting the second leg to be similar to the first one, it’s two sides that play really good attractive football it’s just as case of making sure the occasion doesn’t beat us. We’re going on to the biggest stage of them all and we intend to give a good account of ourselves. We know we can play better than the first leg and that’s what we’re going to have to do if we want to win this competition.”