Former Manchester United striker, Will Keane, didn’t think so at the time, but his hat trick in the semi-final victory of FA Youth Cup 2011 against Chelsea proved the end of an era and the start of a major power shift in English football.
United, the club of the Busby Babes and Class of 92, that year won the Youth Cup for a record tenth time with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison who supplied the ammunition for Keane, who was heavily tipped all the way at Old Trafford.
Yet they have not lifted the trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho spent a lot on ready-made internationals for their first team.
Will Keane celebrates the score for Manchester United against Chelsea in the Youth Cup 2011
Keane scored a hat trick on Old Trafford while United defeated Chelsea 4-0 to reach the final
Meanwhile, owner Roman Abramovich responded to Chelsea on the United trouncing by speeding up improvements at the Chelsea academy.
They won the FA Youth Cup five times in a row between 2014 and 2018 – the first club to have won Busby Babes since the 1950s.
Homegrown talents Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi will face the Premier League tomorrow night and be part of England’s Euro 2020 preparations.
“The change in fortune has been a shock,” admits Keane, now in League One Ipswich.
‘I joined United at the age of 10 and the importance of the FA Youth Cup came to mind.
Keane then scored twice in the second leg of the final against Sheffield United
Ravel Morrison (right) celebrates with Jesse Lingard after scoring in the final at Old Trafford
“Our manager Paul McGuinness would hold team meetings where he would go through all the great youth parties of United. Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and many players from the first team would come to our games.
“There was mainly a buzz about our group because we were born in 1992 and 1993.
“It was as if we were asked to wear the baton and if you ask one of the boys, winning the youth cup is one of the highlights of our career. It was the first time that you put on a United Club suit with the weapon.
‘Paul (Pogba) was a top all-round player, physically and technically, but Ravel Morrison was considered just as well. He was so talented with the ball.
“Jesse Lingard was on the team. Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe who later joined Fulham. I don’t even know if Larnell is playing.
Nobody expected at that time that the United 2011 triumph would be their last in the competition
Manchester United team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011: Back (left-right) Sean McGinty, Gyliano van Velzen, Sam Johnstone, Tom Thorpe, Michael Keane, Paul Pogba; Front (left-right) Ryan Tunnicliffe, Ravel Morrison, Will Keane, Michele Fornasier, Jesse Lingard
“I just hadn’t guessed that United would stop winning FA Youth Cups because it was considered so important to the club at the time.”
Instead, Chelsea has dominated the modern era and their talent pool is now finally getting the chance in the Premier League.
Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke were part of the Chelsea team that started five in a row. Abraham, Mount and Fikayo Tomori were part of the team that defeated United 5-1 on their way to winning the trophy in 2016.
Hudson-Odoi and Reece James were in the 2018 version that Arsenal threw 7-1 in the final.
(From left to right) Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison with the trophy
Will Keane gets a shot away during the recent League One game of Ipswich at AFC Wimbledon
‘United was still able to produce the strange person like Marcus (Rashford), Mason (Greenwood) or Adnan Januzaj, but the power in the depth seemed to stop. I think it’s something the club is trying to get back.
“A club like United does not always want Chelsea or Manchester City to win the FA Youth Cup, because sooner or later some of those young players will challenge the Premier League and also challenge those trophies.”
As for Keane, he followed his Chelsea treble by scoring twice in the final against Sheffield United, with Harry Maguire as the main middle half.
A terrible run with injuries, initiated by tearing his ACL under England under 19 duty, limited his chances in Old Trafford, but he did not revive his career in Suffolk with Ipswich fighting for promotion this season.