Academy manager Alan Moore on tonight's FA Youth Cup fixture
Academy boss Alan Moore spoke to us ahead of the FA Youth Cup first round Wednesday night fixture against Tranmere Rovers.
“This is a competition the lads look forward to from the moment they get back for pre-season training in July,” he said. “They start asking for the dates of the games as early as that.
“As much as they do look forward to it I try, as much as I can, to treat it just like any other game. We don’t do anything different in the way we prepare because I think, with it being under lights, that’s enough to start to get the lads used to the kind of emotions and feelings first team players go through.
“The young lads do put a lot of extra pressure on themselves because they place an emphasis on any games which are played on the main pitch.”
“I would imagine it will be a very close and nervy game,” he continued. “I don’t think there’ll be too much between the sides at all. We’re in a decent run of form at the moment, we’ve won the last four games, so confidence is there.
“We’ve watched Tranmere a few times and they’re a very good side. They’ve beat us the last four times we’ve played against them so it’ll be a tough test. They’re top of our league and I’m sure they will fancy their chances.
“We’ll be looking for a performance more than anything else. We’ll be happy if we get that, whatever the result is, as coaching staff because it’s about seeing that the lads can handle the occasion and still play their game.
“Surprisingly enough everyone has declared themselves fit. Karlton Rudd is the one who probably isn’t anywhere near but even he has said that he’ll play if he’s needed. That means we have 17 bodies available and every single one of them wants to be involved.”
On helping the lads to deal with the occasion, he said: “There’s not really too much you can do because the lads do build themselves up and their heart rates go through the roof for these games.
“We tend to use the heart rate monitors during these games, to see how the lads react, and these are the highest readings we get by far. That’s all down to nerves and tension. That’s why I try to take as much of that away from them as I can.
“We had to manage the group on Monday morning because they were very, very quiet during the warm up. We stopped them and asked them why that was, because it should have been the exact opposite. They’d just won four games on the bounce, but already the nerves about Wednesday night had started to kick in.
“That’s where you have to make things as relaxed as possible so they can go out there and enjoy it. You never really know what to expect with young players on occasions like this and certain player do freeze under the lights. You hope the second years can adapt a lot quicker and set the tone for the rest of the team.
“The second years are starting to get to grips with where we would expect them to be. It’s taken them 18 months instead of 12 to get to this stage, but they’re doing really well and they’ve come together as a group. The first years are fitting in around that.
“Hopefully that will continue to develop and nights like this are another part of the learning curve. I have made pre-contract decisions on players based on how they’ve handled the FA Youth Cup games in the past. It’s a big test for them but if they aren’t able to cope with this then it throws a question over whether or not they’d be able to cope with the intensity levels faced by the professionals every day of their working lives.
“They shouldn’t be afraid of it. It’s about getting out there and turning the good work they’ve been doing for a number of months now into a good performance on the night.”
United v Tranmere, FA Youth Cup first round, Wednesday 4 November, kick off 7pm
Entry prices: £3 for adults and £1.50 for concessions