Academy manager Jim Cassell was a relieved man after City’s Under 18 battled through to the FA Youth Cup final on Wednesday night.
The Blues lost 1-0 to Sunderland on the night, but the aggregate scoreline of 2-1 sees City into the final for the second time in three years.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s performance, Jim said: “If we had not conceded the goal, we would have been delighted with the way we defended because we defended very well. We were not as good as we can be going forward, but mentally this was a very difficult game for our players.
“We can give all the advice that we can, but it’s down to the boys that play and psychologically they were in the final last Thursday night. It was a very difficult game, and as much as we tried to approach it as a one-off, it never quite worked out like that.
“Let’s give Sunderland an awful lot of credit, they made it into a nerve-wracking tie. But I have to say, without being arrogant, although we conceded I never felt we would conceded a second goal.”
While a touch disappointed that the team did not give their fans a glimpse of their true selves, Jim thinks that City deserve to be in the final after a campaign that included a string of hard-fought away victories
“To play your first game at the City of Manchester Stadium is not a true advantage because, apart from for Danny Sturridge, it is an alien environment for the boys. They coped OK, but they did not play in the flowing manner that we can do,” says Jim.
“The plusses were Kieron Trippier, Ben Mee and Greg Hartley - they were immense. If we judge the overall campaign and not just one game, we should be delighted. We can’t be deflated about being in a national final.
“Let’s hope we can go one better than last time, but we will have to play better than we did in the second leg of the semi.”