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The Academy: Youth Cup Adventure 2012

It’s difficult not to dwell on last years tremendous journey through the stages of the competition as this years FA Youth Cup gets under-way in earnest. It’s tempting to compare this team with last years but as we know, every academy team, every year has varying levels of skill, experience and expectations; this seasons is no different.

The beauty of the youth cup is the challenge it lays down. The Premier Academy League is where the players develop and learn their skills throughout the season, the youth cup is where they’re tested and challenged to show their progression. It’s the competition where results really do matter because the further they get, the more experience they gain and the harder the challenges become.

Tonight sees the visit of Torquay United at Moss Lane (home of Altrincham FC) in the third round.

The game kicks-off at 7pm and promises to be a lively affair. Torquay conquered Cirencester in the previous round but required penalties to make it through after drawing the game one-all. This tie will doubtless be viewed as a glamour tie for them and I’m sure the management & coaching staff won’t have to say too much to get their boys raring to go for this one, that’s why we need to start fast and learn from recent mistakes.

United’s recent form in the league has been impressive for it’s desire above it’s aesthetics. Some decent individual performances have been surpassed by some gritty team performances, either way, the team has been getting results and showing great signs of development.

In general, the second year scholars get preference over the first years when it comes to the manager picking his team for a youth cup game. That would suggest Charni, Luke McCullough, Tom Lawrence, van Velzen and Tyler Blackett are assured starts if fit and available. Lawrence has been absent for the last few games with a groin strain but, if at all possible, I imagine he’ll get a start.

An interesting dynamic to look out for if Lawrence does get the nod, is how he links up with Januzaj and where the two operate within the same team.

Can we get that elusive cleansheet tonight before the Academy logs off competitive football for a month? Let’s hope so.

Predicted Team: Jacob, Ekangamene, Blackett, McCullough, Love, (Weir or Rudge), Daehli, Januzaj, Barmby, Lawrence, GvV.
Bench: (Rudge or Weir), Byrne, Hendrie, Coll, Dalley

The expectation on this group is far less than it was on United’s ‘Class of 2011’. At this stage last season they embarked on their journey against Portsmouth winning 3-2 with goals from Pogba, Will Keane and an own goal in what became a nervy performance late on. That match was also played at Moss Lane under spotlights, hopefully this years crop can secure a safe passage through to the third round which starts in the new year.

Coverage of the game starts on MUTV at 6:30pm but for those who can’t get to the game or get the coverage then Twitter updates as usual from me (@Rimmerstweets) and a plethora of others at the game will start from about 6pm. But better than that, why not get down there. Kids get in for £1 and Adults for £3.