Over 64,000 fans will cram into Old Trafford tonight, hoping to get a glimpse of future first-team stars as Manchester United’s U18s squad take on Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup final.
No club in the country is as synonymous with the competition as United, who have won the tournament a record ten times in their history.
United’s proud history of promoting youth is well known but it remains mind-boggling that at least one academy product has been included in every single matchday squad since 1937 – a remarkable run of 4,146 matches.
Tonight’s final against Forest is United’s first in 11 years, since the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard guided the Red Devils to victory.
The Busby Babes and the Class of ’92 have shown United provide a pathway for their best youngsters to make it into the first team and Metro.co.uk‘s selected the three most promising prospects to keep an eye on tonight, and indeed in the future.
He’s already played for Liverpool and Manchester City at youth level but McNeil’s heart is at Old Trafford.
The striker hit the headlines in 2020 when he joined his boyhood club from rivals City for a fee of around £800,000.
United had McNeil earlier in his youth but he blossomed at the Etihad, where he scored an incredible 72 times in 110 games for the U15s.
In total, McNeil’s scored over 600 times at youth level and he hit a brace in the semi-final against Wolves to help United to the final.
With United’s first team in desperate need of a striker, McNeil will be hoping that he can stake his claim by firing the U18s to glory tonight.
Not many 17-year-olds can lay claim to have played with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but Garnacho is part of a small group of players to have done so.
He may not have played with Messi competitively yet but Garnacho was handed a call-up to Argentina’s national side earlier this year, which was recognition for his incredible progress over the last 18 months.
The winger joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2020 and he’s been the standout performer in the side’s run to the final, scoring a number of eye-catching goals that have sent supporters into a frenzy online.
His stunning strike against Everton in the fifth round – in which he broke from his own half – displayed Garnacho’s speed and power, as well as finishing ability.
The Argentine has caused controversy by referring to Ronaldo as the ‘goat’ on his Instagram, despite his national allegiance with Messi.
But he’ll be hoping to play with both players for years to come if he continues his progress.
In a parallel universe where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remained at Manchester United this season, it’s not hard to imagine Hugill being part of the first team set-up.
The Norwegian was a huge admirer of the striker and namedropped him on several occasions during his last 12 months as manager at Old Trafford.
‘Four goals by Hugill, he’s a top striker as well, we’re looking forward to seeing his development,’ said Solskjaer in February 2021, after the striker scored four times in one match against Liverpool.
Hugill is United’s top scorer this term, scoring 12 times this term at an average of once ever 92 minutes.
The forward was signed from Sunderland two years ago and the Black Cats were furious to lose the striker for a meagre fee.
Hugill’s lean but tall frame makes him a good target man but he’s surprisingly quick for his size and has scored a wide variety of goals this term.
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