The FA Youth Cup final smashed the all-time attendance record and a largely partisan crowd looked on as Manchester United won it for the 11th time, with Alejandro Garnacho scoring twice in beating Nottingham Forest 3-1 at Old Trafford in front of 67,000 fans.
Amid a superb atmosphere nearly doubling the previous attendance record (38,187 in 2007), Garnacho’s second-half brace proved decisive after an enthralling encounter. He converted a controversial penalty despite replays showing the foul was clearly outside the box, adding a deflected strike in injury time to extend United’s lead as the winningest team in the competition.
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Several United first-team players were also in attendance to watch the event, with Phil Jones† Scott McTominay† Bruno Fernandes† Eric Bailly and David de Gea all spotted among the crowd. Several former United legends, including manager Sir Alex Ferguson, midfielder Nicky Butt and striker Dwight Yorke, were also on hand to show their support.
Manchester United started the brighter of the two teams, with midfielder Kobbie Mainoo dribbling into the box and forcing a close-range save from Aaron Bott. After a couple of Forest chances, United took the lead in the 13th minute, when captain Rhys Bennett met an inswinging Sam Murray free-kick with a powerful header that Bott couldn’t keep out of the net.
United continued to press for a second goal early the first half, with Garnacho — who was presented with the club’s U18 player of the year award before the match — firing wide on a couple of occasions, but Forest closed the opening period with intent . They deserved an equalizer for their attacking play, and got one on the cusp of half-time. Forest full-back Joshua Powell ran free of Garnacho near the edge of the area and fired a speculative low shot on goal that squirmed through United keeper Radek Vitek’s grasp.
With just 15 minutes left in a pulsating second half with few clear-cut chances, United got their break in controversial fashion. Garnacho seized upon Forest’s lazy play out from the back, stealing the ball from defender Zach Abbott, who then tripped the Argentina midfielder outside the area. Referee Josh Smith and his assistants however awarded a penalty, which Garnacho slotted beyond Bott.
As Forest pushed and pressed for a late equalizer, Garnacho broke clear down the left flank, cutting into the box, dribbling beyond a pair of defenders and firing a shot beyond Bott thanks to a healthy deflection.