While the eyes of many Reds were focused on the distraction of the Class of 92 match in Salford, the Class of 2014 sought to put right, albeit belatedly, the unwelcome aberration of a trophy-less season in the delayed Manchester Senior Cup Final. They achieved their aim in some style, largely thanks to a four goal performance from James Wilson, a young man of such talent that he may well go on to match the feats of at least some of his illustrious 1992 predecessors.
City had the better of the opening exchanges and deservedly took the lead in the sixteenth minute, Joel Perreira’s save from Cole (son of Andy) falling to Hiwula, who scored from close range. Though city dominated possession throughout the half, clear-cut chances were at a premium, their best effort after that coming through a similar exchange that Tom Thorpe managed to snuff out. A frustrating first half for the Reds, however, ended with a goal completely out of the blue: James Wilson levelled in stoppage time with a fine solo effort that illustrated once again the huge promise of the young forward, who’d barely had a meaningful kick in the game until that moment.
Indeed, it had been the only shot on target from United at that point and it was unsurprising when the Reds made two substitutions at half-time, Evans coming on for Varela at left-back while Harrop replaced Rothwell in midfield. The changes immediately gave the Reds a better balance and Harrop was involved in his side taking the lead early in the second half, starting the move that set free Wilson and, once again, there was little doubt of the outcome when the striker bore down on Gunn in the city goal.
United were well on top now and, with the game opened up, Pereira saw his shot blocked by a city leg before a similar intervention stopped Wilson from grabbing a hat-trick shortly after the hour mark. He didn’t have to wait, long, though: once again he found himself through on goal and, although Gunn managed to get a touch on his shot, its force was enough to sent it spinning into the empty net. And he hadn’t finished there: with nine minutes remaining he picked his spot to curl the ball around the city keeper to make it 4-1.
Wilson might understandably feature in a few nightmares for Gunn over the coming weeks, though the keeper can be comforted in the knowledge that he’s unlikely to meet many like him over his career. He’s a special talent and the United fans behind the dugout even took a break from baiting Patrick Vieira to applaud him off the pitch when he was substituted four minutes from the end. He was rightly named man of the match, though credit also should go to Warren Joyce, whose two half-time substitutions managed to turn a game controlled by city into a second half stroll for United.