On Wednesday night the dreams of those representing Everton in this year’s FA Youth Cup came crashing down in the “Theatre of Dreams” at Old Trafford against Manchester United. A great shame as some of the young Blues will no doubt feel that they did not do themselves justice but in truth they met a very good side who were too strong on the night.
There was no sign of what was to come as a very even contest was unfolding early on. After right winger Stanley Mills had shown a clean pair of heels to the United left back on a driving 60 yard charge in the 5th minute, Everton then took the lead six minutes later.
Martin Sherif, leading the line for the Blues in a 4-1-4-1 formation, latched onto a smart through ball and although he was closed down, the ball fell kindly for Francis Okoronkwo who had joined the attack from his left wing berth. He placed a tidy left footed shot into the corner of the net. 1-0 and the Blues were looking good.
A little like with the first team against Newcastle 24 hours earlier though, that lead disappeared in the following minute. Rather appropriately, in the Theatre of Dreams, the referee somehow imagined that he had seen an infringement in a wonderful recovery tackle by holding midfielder Luke Butterfield in the Everton area. Penalty to United put away by McNeill to make it 1-1, and to rub salt in the wound the hapless official showed a yellow card to the wronged Everton player. The referee with many poor decisions was having a nightmare.
It would not have been an injustice in the 19th minute had Isaac Price’s fabulous volley gone into the net rather than rebound off the crossbar. The United goalkeeper was well beaten. During a good spell for the Toffees, 15 year old striker Sherif made room with a nice turn in the penalty area and shot narrowly wide. Had either of those two chances gone in this story could have been so different!
The last notable chance of the first half for either side was converted and sadly the goal came from the Red Devils player Mainoo. Rather a soft goal as firstly Eli Campbell had the opportunity to clear on the left flank and from the resulting cross, the otherwise immaculate centre back Reece Welch was too easily beaten in the air for the United man to loop a header past Everton keeper Pat Nash. 2-1 to United.
Kobbie Mainoo puts United in front with a great header pic.twitter.com/TabYcx8fvQ— utdreport Academy (@utdreportAcad) February 9, 2022
Everton changed shape a little at the start of the second half to 4-3-3 and had a few half chances from skipper Matty Mallon and Sherif again but it was the young Manchester team to score next. Everton, despite heroically blocking a few shots, saw Sam Mather drive home in the 64th minute in a crowded area. 3-1 to United and less than half an hour left.
Although Jenson Metcalfe for Everton did glance the nearside post in the 70th minute with an effort from the edge of the penalty area, United were clearly on top at this stage of the match and as Everton pressed forward, impressive United man Garnacho outpaced Everton right back Mallon, who is no slouch himself, over an 80 yard lung-busting run and finished nicely. 4-1 to United, Everton dreams shattered for another year.
Man of the Match for Everton was probably Welch who, in spite of one misjudgment read the game very well from the back. Several of these players will be available for next year’s Cup run and in the case of 15 year-olds Martin Sherif and left back Ishe Samuels-Smith they will hopefully be able to dream once again for a couple of years yet.