The Centre of Excellence team has suffered in the North West league this season, denting their chances of retaining their champion status for a fifth consecutive season, however the Reds put on an emphatic display for the FA Youth Cup semi- final and showed that they still have the talent and desire to finish the season with a piece of silverware.
Based on past results the tie looked potentially dangerous with United only managing to secure a point from the previous two league meetings against Stoke. However the Reds looked to avenge the previous results and started the match with a very high tempo. First half strikes from Fisher, Wilson and Loukes saw the Reds to the halfway point with a well-deserved 3-0 lead. The pick of the first half goals came from fullback Loukes as she broke down the right hand side to beat the defence and drill the ball into the top corner from a very tight angle.
The second half started with a scare as Stoke City came out fighting and an early goal mouth skirmish forced two goal line clearances. However the girls rallied and almost immediately went to the other end of the pitch as Charlton found the space to coolly slot the ball into the corner and take the tie even further beyond the visitors.
United continued to dictate the game with plenty of possession and showed no mercy as substitute Mather waltzed through the Stoke defence to bend the ball round the keeper and make it 5-0. The inch-perfect placement was celebrated wildly by Mather and her teammates and was a show of great determination by the youngster, who has spent a large part of the season on the side-lines after suffering an injury.
The tie was finally put beyond doubt as a defensive error from Stoke made it easy work for Charlton to add to her goal scoring tally and grab her second goal of the game.
Midfielder, Ashworth-Clifford, who finished the day with five assists was happy with the team performance. She said, “It was a very good match today and I feel a bit overwhelmed. I’m looking forward to the final; we don’t play against Arsenal much so we really need to go and smash them! It’s the best feeling to get this far and at this moment in time it’s probably better than winning the league.”
United striker, Charlton, was also pleased to be in with the chance of silverware. She said, “It was a hard match and a bit of battle but we took our chances. I’m really happy that we’ve made it to the final. It means a lot because we’ll be the first girls’ team from United to ever make it to the FA Cup Final.”
Under 17s’ coach Tom Fitton also praised the performance and the attitude of his players. He said, “The girls realise that this is one of the proudest moments as they’ve made history. They gave everything we asked of every player and went above and beyond today with their performances.”
When asked about their opponent in the next round, Tom added, “I think the final will be played at a high level and we will see some quality football. There will be a lot of passion, fire and desire, and Arsenal will be up for it as any team would be for a final. We’ve just got to play our game and look to dominate.”
Manchester United will now travel to St Georges Park on 16th April to face Arsenal under 17s. With the Reds having scored 20 goals and only conceding one in the last three rounds the final looks poised to be an exciting affair.