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Man United u18 0 Liverpool u18 1 - Youth Cup Final 2nd leg (Apr 26 2007)

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Man Utd u18 0 LIVERPOOL U18 1

Report by Pete Schulz at Old Trafford

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Scorer(s) - Robbie Threlfall

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Old Trafford

Date - Thur 26 Apr 2007

Star Man - The team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just what do you say to describe a performance like the one Liverpool’s youngsters came up with at Old Trafford on Thursday night? The superlatives don’t do it justice because to a man, the young reds performed with ability, guts and desire and they fully deserved to lift the trophy in the Manchester air. Long may the tradition of us lifting trophies in Manchester continue.

 

Last year it was done with the help of players signed from other clubs, but this year, only two – my Scandinavian comrades Martin Hansen and Astrit Ajdarevic – have really come from outside of the academy. It speaks volumes of the work done at the academy that they can deliver two years in a row.

 

Over 3,000 reds had made the trip to the other end of the M62 and they gave incredible support to the young reds who found themselves 2-1 down from the first leg at Anfield. Regular followers of the youth side knew that the players had great character and they knew the tie was far from over.

 

We were unlucky to lose last week, but this time we got what we deserved. Robbie Threlfall’s super strike from the edge of the box in the second half after a succession of corners put the reds back on level terms and it was exactly what the lad deserved after a wonderful season, and a nightmare own goal last week. He’s got a fight on his hands in the reserves next season, but he could be forgiven for allowing himself to feel pleased with himself just now.

 

His partner in central defence, captain Jay Spearing, once again showed what a quality player and motivator he is. He lead his side magnificently by example and set the tone from the off.

 

Elsewhere Lindfield was his usual dangerous self up front while Ajdarevic provided composure in the middle of the park, spraying passes around the park with that sweet left foot of his.

 

In goal, Dave Roberts stepped in because Martin Hansen had broken his finger (in the warm up to the first leg of the final) and Roberts looked like he’d never been gone, keeping Liverpool in the game by making top class saves at crucial moments in the game. His saves from a one on one situation and an overhead kick meant Liverpool again had to go to penalties to win a trophy.

 

I’ve never been so confident of winning a penalty shootout as tonight. Throughout the team we had players with character and skill. Only worry was the fact that the penalties were taken in front of the Stretford End, but our players seemed unfazed and didn’t miss a single one. We knew they had it in them; now the academy’s dream team has come of age.

 

Much has been made of the relationship between Steve Heighway and Gerard Houllier and now Rafael Benitez. Like his predecessor, Benitez is believed to be extremely disappointed with the results of the academy, and he wants increased influence over what goes on.

 

After a night like that, however, one cannot help feel for the departing Heighway who has helped develop teams to win back to back youth cups. His great crime is that he’s created a fantastic team rather than one or two outstanding players for the first team.

 

He is obviously incredibly proud of his players, as he should be, but the thinly veiled parting shot at Benitez was perhaps best kept in private. It will be interesting to see who will take his place. The rumour mill has placed several big names in the running, but it remains to be seen who will take the academy forward. Whoever gets the job will have something to live up to.

 

As for the players, most will have contracts for next season at least and it will be interesting to follow their development for another year. History tells us that for most, this will probably be the highpoint of their careers, but if they never do anything else in football, they will always have the memory of Thursday night to cherish and the medal to show their kids and grandkids.

 

It’s been an immense pleasure to follow the lads through all but one round of this year’s competition. From beating a star studded Chelsea side, to overcoming Newcastle at St. James’ Park and now this. Well done lads. You’ve shown the way; now let’s hope your seniors in the first team squad can pull a performance as gutsy, as disciplined, and as determined as yours out of the hat on Tuesday night.

 

 

 

Team: Roberts; Darby, Spearing, Threlfall, Burns; Ryan (Woodward), Ajdarevic (Irwin), Barnett, Putterill; Flynn, Lindfield:

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