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FAYC 1/4 Final: United v Charlton Athletic – Preview

Buckle up girls and boys it’s getting serious in the FA Youth Cup! Tonight promises to produce real barnstormer of a match as Manchester United host Charlton Athletic at no less than the Theatre of Dreams.

Tonight will make-or-break the hopes of these teams as we play to a finish, but at 16 to 18 years old, some of these boys will get their first (and for some possibly their last) taste of how it feels to have their dreams come true; as they not only walk out onto the Old Trafford turf, but also get 90 minutes of football on it… of them might be fortunate enough to get the winner on it and some might even go on to make hundreds of appearances on it.

United have made steady progress through their cup run easily seeing off Torquay United at Moss Lane before coming-of-age against a tough, talented Derby County in a heroic night that will go down as the turning point of the season. After that they travelled to Swansea City and quite literally swanned in (sorry!) and swanned out with a tremendous 5-1 victory that brought them into the quarter finals.

Charlton have also produced a cup run of similarly impressive proportions despite [on paper] their opposition not looking such tough opponents. Yeovil Town (2-0), Cambridge United (7-0) and Leicester City (2-1 after extra-time) were all despatched at Welling United’s Park View Road before they faced their biggest challenge so far in the previous round when they took on Spurs at The Valley and, thanks to a magnificent swerving freekick from Oliver Muldoon in the final seconds, they came out 1-0 winners and booked their trip to Old Trafford.

They come into to the tie boasting an enviable record of being unbeaten in their last 10 matches (including the FAYC) whereas United are still searching for their first win of 2012 in the league despite their cup wins and admirable efforts.

On Saturday the two teams met tough opposition with United bravely battling to a 3-3 draw at home to title chasing Wolves and Charlton beating a Southampton side that comfortably beat United on the second Saturday of the season on the south coast.

According to @liamhappe (CAFC Commentator) the pick of the bunch for Charlton is Tobi Sho-Silva plus the teams’ resilience, but he also suggests Charlton have few weaknesses and points to the tactical ability within the management ranks of Paul Harte and Steve Avory to shift the outcome and adapt midgame.

With United expecting the return of Luke McCullough into the centre of defence it poses the manager his first chance in over a month to select his strongest back four. If Luke is available I reckon we’ll see Tyler move into leftback (in place of Ekangamene), Ioannou keep his place (and make his Old Trafford debut at just 15 years old!) alongside McCullough and the recently emerging Liam Grimshaw given his chance to continue to impress at rightback thanks to injuries to Donald Love and James Weir.

With Tyler shifting left, the manager’s biggest decision will be choosing who occupies central midfield. Luke Hendrie is a shoo-in following his excellent recent form and obvious leadership qualities. So, does McGuinness couple him with; Jack Rudge, or – the usurped from leftback – Charni Ekangamene? Saturday’s draw versus Wolves saw both players get a half each alongside Luke, and neither overly stated their case although Charni will point to his partnership with Luke in the match against Derby County that helped United control the midfield battle and his presence in 90% of all United’s fixtures this season. It’s a tough call but I personally expect Charni to start there (although of the two players I think Jack offers the most) because Jack is a first year and Charni a second year, I think it often has a bearing.

Up front, the continued absence of Adnan Januzaj (to add to the long suffering Joe Rothwell and Tom Lawrence) removes a similar headache for the manager as his options are reduced to the obvious. van Velzen will start on the left with Barmby on the right, Mats Daehli will try to pick holes in the Charlton defence from central areas and Sam Byrne will work tirelessly to close down the ball and get on the end of countless crosses from Blackett and GvV on the left. On the right Barmby will look to cut in and create problems with his pace and shooting ability.

Chelsea await the winners in a two-legged semi-final after they came from 3 goals behind against Notts’ Forest to win 4-3 with a last gasp winner from apparent ‘Wonderkid’ Lucas Piazon.

The match kicks-off at 7pm with tickets available from the ticket office throughout the day (£3 Adults £1 Concessions – 0161 868 8000). Anyone attending – I believe there’s a few of the Twitter Brigade making their way to the Bishop Blaize for a few pre-match warm-ups and some light banter, feel free to join us if you spot us. Updates as usual from me (@Rimmerstweets) and the usual regulars:

@JonyB007, @thisistheone99, @mrmujac, manutdreserves, @DoronSolomon, @PeterBolton3 @Will_Lumb