Heskey gets Haaland treatment as Man City kids prove Pep Guardiola wrong to win FA Youth Cup

Manchester City players said they wanted to be remembered as they stepped out in the FA Youth Cup final. To do so, they proved manager Pep Guardiola wrong about his theory when it comes to priorities at academy level.

When he was asked about Manchester City's Youth Cup final against Leeds, Guardiola essentially told the academy that winning is not the most important thing at that level.

That is true to a degree, and losing can provide invaluable learning experiences, but once these youngsters are in a final, they only have eyes on the trophy.

The under-18s did the unthinkable later on Friday and totally ignored the senior manager, as their collective performance was one that prioritised winning at all costs. A ruthless second half display secured a second Youth Cup title in five years and a fourth in City's history.

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"At this age silverware is important but it is not much," said Guardiola. "They have to try to win it but anything can happen. It's a process to learn and when you play these finals you always learn, playing to pressure and having to perform well. For the academy, it's really important. The last years have been unbelievable in many senses."

It was hardly a rallying cry, but you don't need to tell this group of the importance of winning. The academy have won the U18 league three years in a row before this and only relinquished that title because Manchester United raised the game significantly – the Blues' points total consistent with last year's winning tally.

After losing that crown, the Youth Cup would serve as a reminder that this academy remains packed with talent and a desire to win. Captain Jahmai-Simpson Pusey said before the game that being in his final means you are 'remembered' at a club. "Being at City and people knowing you were part of the team that won the Youth Cup, it is a big thing to say," he said.

Not even Guardiola was going to take away the idea that winning this game was not the most important thing.

Having lost the Premier League Cup final to United a fortnight ago, City were more streetwise in this final, backed by thousands of Blues amid a noisy travelling contingent from over the Pennines.

The first half was a non-event, on the pitch and in the stands – barring a touching moment where both sets of fans united in their dislike of United. City had beaten Leeds 4-1 in the league recently, and the visitors looked determined to avoid a repeat of that as their first priority.

They defended as deep as possible, frustrating City, who were left to rely on half-chances and speculative crosses. A late flurry of corners ended in some pinball in the area, but Jaden Heskey's wayward finish summed up the previous 45 minutes. Cagey and lacking any real quality.

The start of the second half followed the same pattern, but thankfully saw City open the scoring inside a minute. Justin Oboavwoduo's shot was spilled, Heskey couldn't pounce, but when a Leeds defender tried to clear he could only play it onto Oboavwoduo who was coming in for the follow-up, the ball bouncing into the bottom corner to City's delight.

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After such a slog of a first half, City knew they just had to bide their time, and the goal opened up plenty of space. Soon, one became two, and this was a move that Guardiola's first team have scored hundreds of times. Farid Alfa-Ruprecht was played in on the inside-right channel by a wonderful 50-yard Kian Noble pass that split the defence, with the first time cross sent along the six yard box, and Heskey was there to side-foot home.

He was announced as 'our number nine', just like Erling Haaland is for the first team. It's rare that the Haaland and Heskey surnames are used in the same breath, but Jaden is making a name for himself at City away from his famous father and reaping the rewards. This goal capped a fine breakout season for the young forward.

When Kian Noble looped a header towards the back post, it was dropping in, but full-back Stephen Mfuni appeared out of nowhere to head it over the line. Noble looked a little irritated as Mfuni celebrated wildly, with both reactions the sign of true winners.

Matty Warhurst, unlucky not to start with 19 goals to his name this season, made an instant impact when he drove forward and slotted into the far corner for number four on the night and 20 for the campaign. Another sign of a winning mentality off the bench.

Noble and Mfuni made up by full-time as they lifted the trophy, showing Guardiola it is possible to perform under pressure and win at academy level. They certainly learned from previous disappointments this season.

Simpson-Pusey become just the fourth City captain to lift the Youth Cup, and this group will go down in City history with their achievement. Guardiola will surely approve, too.