Following on from our last ‘Where Are They Now?’ editorial, we now give some insight as to where those Manchester United players from the losing FA Youth Cup of 2007 have ended up.
The Red Devils, captained by Sam Hewson, and featuring Danny Welbeck, Ron-Robert Zieler and Febian Brandy, were unable to hold onto a 2-1 lead from the first leg at Anfield, conceding to Robbie Threlfall early in the second half at Old Trafford in the return bout.
United were then beaten 4-3 on penalties by their arch rivals, giving Liverpool two FA Youth Cups in a row. Below is what has happened to those United players since that day in April six years ago.
The 24-year old goalkeeper remained at Old Trafford until the summer of 2010 before departing for German club Hannover 96.
Cologne-born Zieler spent time on loan with Northampton Town in 2008/09 but eventually left United to resume his career in his homeland where he is now number one custodian for Die Roten who sit mid-table in the Bundsesliga. Zieler has also won two caps for the German national team.
Full-back Eckersley stayed with the Red Devils until 2009 but rejected the offer of a new deal despite sitting on the bench for the League Cup final win over Tottenham. He joined Burnley, who had just been promoted to the Premier League, but failed to feature at Turf Moor and was sent out on loan to Plymouth Argyle, Bradford City, Bury and MLS club Toronto FC.
Eckersley made over 20 appearances for the Canadian club during his spell and was snapped up permanently in January 2012. He was a regular starter under former TFC head coaches Aron Winter then Paul Mariner, of Arsenal and England fame, and remains that way under new boss Ryan Nelsen.
The Northern Ireland international now finds himself with Hull City after departing United permanently in the summer of 2011.
The midfielder, who can also be deployed at centre-back, spent a short time on loan with Carlisle United in 2010. He then joined the Tigers where he impressed enough during a short-term stay to win a contract at the KC Stadium and is now a regular contributor to Steve Bruce’s side which sits second on the Championship table.
Strickland remained with the United youth setup until 2009 but left in the summer of that year. He had unsuccessful trials with Championship and lower league clubs but eventually was signed by the Chelsea academy where he played until the end of the 2009-10 season.
After a stint with Marine FC, Strickland is now with Skelmersdale United, current league leaders of the Northern Premier League Division One North.
Another recent United youngster to join Hull City, centre-back Chester headed to the KC Stadium in January 2011, signing a three-and-a-half-year deal.
Prior to his shift to the Tigers, the Warrington-born defender had loans with Peterborough United, Plymouth and Carlisle but is now a key figure in Bruce’s promotion-chasing Hull line-up.
The former England U19 international left Old Trafford for good in January 2012, joining Leicester City for an undisclosed fee.
The 23-year old midfielder was loaned to Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, Watford and Barnsley after becoming part of United’s seniors in 2009 but has since moved onto the King Power Stadium where he is gunning for a Championship promotion playoff spot with the Foxes.
Hewson captained the United youth team in 2007, as well as skippering the reserves, but has failed to kick-on with his career since. The box-to-box midfielder scored the winner in the first leg at Anfield from the penalty spot but missed the final spot-kick in the second leg shootout.
Before leaving Old Trafford in 2010, Hewson had loan spells with Hereford United and Bury, before joining Altrincham permanently. He now finds himself with Icelandic club Fram who are situated in Reykjavik.
The Scotsman joined United’s youth academy from Heart of Midlothian in 2006 but was moved on in the summer of 2009 after a string of injuries. He returned to Scotland to join Hibernian where he made over 50 appearances before signing with League of Ireland side Limerick in February this year.
Now an attacking force with the United senior squad, Welbeck has crafted a very promising career for himself and would be classed as the most successful of all the players who were involved in the 2007 FA Youth Cup final.
The former Preston North End and Sunderland loanee has made 16 appearances and scored five goals for England as well as netting a total of 19 goals for the Red Devils in all competitions since his debut in 2008.
Another who was highly rated but has not really succeeded in his senior career, ex-England youth international Brandy is currently with League One club Walsall.
The diminutive striker left United in June 2010, after loans with Swansea City, Hereford United and Gillingham, to sign with Notts County in February 2011 but did not have his short-term contract renewed and departed there in the summer of that year.
Brandy tried his luck in Greece with Panetolikos but left after just six months, claiming he had not been paid his wages and has since scored six goals in 31 league appearances for the Saddlers.
The Republic of Ireland U21 international did not make it onto United’s senior list and subsequently joined Scottish club Hamilton Academical in 2009. He did not feature for the Accies before heading to Lincoln City via the Glenn Hoddle Academy.
A loan spell with Spanish lower league club Jerez Industrial in 2010 preceded a permanent move from Lincoln to Irish outfit Bohemians in February 2011. Fagan is currently a key figure at St Patrick’s Athletic, scoring 13 goals in 25 outings last season.
Gary Woods (gk)
22-year old keeper Woods stayed with the Red Devils until the summer of 2008 when he was released following various injuries. He joined Doncaster Rovers as a free agent in March 2009 where he has remained ever since, and is now the number one gloveman for the League One leaders.
Magnus Eikrem (m)
The Norwegian midfielder remained with this season’s Premier League champions-elect until 2011 but has since returned to his homeland.
22-year old attacking midfielder Eikrem, who has played nine times for Norway, signed with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde (returning to his youth club) in January 2011 and has established himself as a key player in that side who have won the past two Norwegian Tippeligaen titles.
Conor McCormack (m)
McCormack left United to join Italian club Triestina’s youth academy in 2008 but was not offered a senior contract by the Trieste outfit and departed after two-and-a-half years.
The 22-year old midfielder found his way back to Ireland, joining Shamrock Rovers at the start of the 2011 season, helping them into the Europa League. He has amassed 63 appearances in all competitions for the Rovers and was part of the 2011 League of Ireland title-winning team and the successful 2012 Leinster Senior Cup campaign.