How United’s under-18s brought hope to the Lane after season of heartache

FA Youth Cup Final 1st leg...Sheffield Utd v Man Utd...GOAL...Blades Callum McFadzean celebrates his equalising goal just before half-time
FA Youth Cup Final 1st leg...Sheffield Utd v Man Utd...GOAL...Blades Callum McFadzean celebrates his equalising goal just before half-time
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THERE is hope for Sheffield United’s fans amid the despair and devastation of watching the team relinquish their Championship status.

THERE is hope for Sheffield United’s fans amid the despair and devastation of watching the team relinquish their Championship status.

The optimism comes in the shape of their Under-18 side, who deservedly drew 2-2 in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final with Manchester United on Tuesday.

John Pemberton’s youngsters played an attractive brand of football and it was a welcome boost to the club’s long-suffering supporters after a turbulent year for the first team.

Almost 30,000 spectators packed into Bramall Lane to get a glimpse of the next generation.

After a jittery opening 20 minutes, Pemberton’s troops grew in stature the longer the match went on and gave a great account of themselves. The teenagers rose to the challenge and demonstrated exactly why they had knocked out holders Aston Villa in the semi-final stages of the competition.

If they show the same passion and fighting spirit at Old Trafford, they have a chance of pulling off a shock and creating history on Monday. This is the first time the club have ever reached the final of the competition.

Pemberton said: “It was very open and entertaining, particularly in the second period because in the first 20 minutes or so we weren’t ourselves. We looked nervous and and it was probably our worst spell of the season.

“We were edgy, didn’t get close to people, gave the ball away and were probably a bit fortunate to go in level.”

It is Pemberton, appointed academy director last summer, who deserves a lot of the plaudits for restoring pride at United. His passing principles and achievements with the club’s youth set-up are the reasons why he has been heavily linked with the vacant manager’s job.

Jordan Slew, the scorer of United’s second equaliser, continues to develop at a rapid rate. He was a constant menace to the Red Devils backline.

A willing runner throughout, the 18-year-old worked the channels effectively, held up the ball intelligently and always carried a goal threat. His pace and finishing prowess could make the difference in the second leg.

Slew burst on to the scene and made an impact at senior level last month, scoring goals against Preston North End and Bristol City.

Darius Henderson recently backed Slew to make the grade at United, saying: “I can see Jordan having a really bright future. He’s shown he can score and it goes without saying that’s vitally important in this position.”

Captain Elliott Whitehouse was another standout performer in the 2-2 with the Red Devils, who have previously lifted the trophy nine times. The Worksop player’sinspirational run paved the way for Callum McFadzean to equalise.