Manchester United's next star forward shines in front of legend Wayne Rooney vs Man City

"Winning while developing players is utopia," a proud Nick Cox said last week.

The development of players will always be the priority of Manchester United's academy, but getting into the habit of winning trophies at a club built on success is no bad trait. The Under-18s were crowned Premier League North champions seven days ago and took another opportunity to win another trophy against rivals Manchester City on Tuesday.

The youngsters have enjoyed a wonderful campaign and the only disappointment from the night was there weren't more fans there to see it. Old Trafford was unable to host the fixture and playing there, with a larger crowd, would have been befitting for a special crop of young players.

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The U18s have taken their league by storm, scoring the most goals in the division, and some believe the group has the same potential as the excellent 2022 FA Youth Cup winning team which included the likes of Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo, Willy Kambwala and Dan Gore. Garnacho and Mainoo are now established first-team players and the chances are a few of the youngsters from Adam Lawrence's side will follow suit.

Harry Amass, Ethan Wheatley, Louis Jackson and Habeeb Ogunneye were all on the bench at Wembley last weekend. All four have featured in senior training over the last few months and have played a key role for the U18s in their outstanding season.

Given how depleted the first-team is it was possible those four players would be saved for the bench against Sheffield United on Wednesday night, but Amass, Jackson and Wheatley started and Ogunneye was named on the bench in a signal of intent.

Remarkably, United's U18s were unbeaten in the league until March and City were responsible for inflicting that loss, so there was a score to settle in the Premier League Cup final. United managed to achieve that - and then some. They made a brilliant start and Wheatley drew first blood with a superb volley at the front post inside 10 minutes.

Wheatley has eight goals in seven league appearances this season and his purple patch is not relenting. Perhaps City goalkeeper Spike Brits could have done better with his first, but he was helpless when the United youngster danced around him for his second goal.

The 18-year-old, who signed his first professional contract in January, did brilliantly to round Brits for his brace and he was mobbed by his teammates as he celebrated. The United fans in attendance began to find their voice after Wheatley's second goal and, once again, the club's academy has been a beacon of light this season.

United legend Wayne Rooney was in a private box, along with wife Coleen, and would have raised a smile at Wheatley's goals. He was joined by newly appointed technical director Jason Wilcox, who joked he'd had an eventful first day at work when he left Wembley on Sunday.

Head of the academy Cox, U18 boss Lawrence and Under-21 manager Travis Binnion deserve immense praise for their work - they have made the youth set up world-class again.

Although City's senior team sometimes feel like they are a planet away, United have been superior at academy level this term and they are the current champions in that galaxy.

There are multiple young stars to shout about and City were relieved to see Wheatley, Jackson and Amass substituted at half-time, changes that were planned by first team manager Erik ten Hag so the trio could have the opportunity to play in the cup final but still be involved against Sheffield United. They were replaced by Ogunneye, Bendito Mantato and Gabriele Blancheri while Shea Lacey and Jacob Devaney were introduced shortly after that.

City improved after half-time and increased the pressure as they looked for a response, but Jack Kingdon at the heart of the United defence was hardly troubled. The pressure eventually told with five minutes remaining when Stephen Mfuni scored what was ultimately a mere consolation and Elyh Harrison had a big say in that - he was exceptional in between the sticks for United.

Those in red punched the air at the final whistle and the smiles on their faces were visible from each corner of the ground as they lifted the trophy. United's academy is currently in utopia.

United U18 XI vs City: Harrison, Nolan, Amass, Kingdon, Jackson, McAllister (C), Scanlon, Curley, Wheatley, Fletcher, Williams. Subs: Ogunneye, Mantato, Devaney, Lacey, Biancheri.