Wednesday 22 May 2013
A delighted Larnell Cole attributed his side’s Barclays Under-21 Premier League success to dedication and teamwork after his goals helped Manchester United overcome Tottenham Hotspur in a thrilling five-goal final at Old Trafford on Monday evening.
"They only ever allowed us to play once here on the proper pitch at Old Trafford because it cut up easily. But they’re luckier now"
Sir Bobby Charlton
Trailing 2-0 at half-time to goals by Jonathan Obika and Alex Pritchard, United fought back thanks to a low drive by Marnick Vermijl and two strikes by Cole, whose performance earned him the Barclays Man of the Match award.
“I’m over the moon,” said the 20-year-old, after receving his medal and award from Sir Bobby Charlton. “It’s been a long season so I’m happy for everyone, not only myself but the whole team. Everyone’s worked hard. It’s good to win another league title.”
Tottenham had been in control during a first half in which they twice hit the woodwork as well as the net, but Cole said United had been stirred by manager Warren Joyce’s half-time words and staged a remarkable second-half fightback.
“Tottenham are a tough team and being two down as well made it even harder,” he said. “We knew it was going to be tough but we always had the belief and we pushed on in the second half to get the win.
“At half-time the gaffer told us to get at them and not to give them time to play and that’s what we did. We pushed forward and then we got the goals.”
Vermijl’s raking low shot from the right just before the hour gave United heart and with 16 minutes remaining, a sweeping move involving Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jesse Lingard set up Cole to shimmy around the goalkeeper and fire high into the net.
“At first I thought it was going to hit the bar or go over, but it went in so I was pleased,” said Cole, whose smile was broader when he drilled Tom Lawrence’s cutback past Jordan Archer for the winner with just two minutes left.
United’s players lifted the trophy before the 4,000 supporters who turned up to watch and parade the silverware on the same Old Trafford pitch where their senior counterparts had hoisted the Barclays Premier League trophy eight days earlier.
And Sir Bobby was delighted to see success being repeated by the players of tomorrow.
“I think we’re in the winning habit," he said. "We keep going. It’s rubbing off from the first team."
"Playing in Premier League stadiums gives the matches that added pressure. Those are the conditions you want to play under"
The United and England legend added that he had passed up a World Cup winners annual party to come and watch the youngsters in action.
"It takes me back a long way, playing in these games," he said. "I remember playing as a youngster, but they only ever allowed us to play once here on the proper pitch at Old Trafford because it cut up easily. But they’re luckier now, they can play the ball on the floor all the time.
Cole concurred that playing on the hallowed turf and and other top-flight venues – a rule introduced in this inaugural Under-21 format – was a huge boost for aspiring players.
“It’s been a lot better playing in Premier League stadiums this year,” he said. “It gives the matches that added pressure and those are the conditions you want to be playing under at the end of the day – playing in the big stadiums, in front of the big crowds. It brings out better performances in you as a player and as a team, and that’s what you need, really.
“The home supporters didn’t stop singing to be honest, they kept singing all through the match and that’s good when you hear your home fans singing for you like that. It gives you that extra determination to win not only for your team but for them as well.”
Having scored a hat-trick in the semi-final defeat of Liverpool and two goals in the final Cole has enjoyed a memorable end to his season, and now he hopes the experience and success of this season will help him earn first-team recognition.
“I’ve just got to carry on working hard and if I get my chance I’ll just have to take it,” he said. “That’s all I can do – work hard and see where that takes me. I’m pleased with my progress this season. You always need to score goals – that’s the main thing; it gives you confidence and the goals won the game, so I’m happy.”