Manchester United will bring the curtain down on their Old Trafford season on Monday and it will be one of the most subdued season finales in a long time.
Not only have United had a wretched season, but their final home match is taking place 20 days before the season actually finishes. If Brentford continue their recent fine form and pick up a result any lap of honour from those United players could be carried out in front of deserted stands.
It would be a fitting way to bring the curtain down on the home season, but it won’t be the final fixture played at Old Trafford this season.
On Bank Holiday Monday there will be 75,000 fans wearily taking their seats fearing the worst once again. But on Wednesday, May 11, the atmosphere will be very different.
That is the night of United’s first FA Youth Cup final in 11 years and already the number of tickets sold guarantees it will be the highest attendance ever for a game in that competition.
In fact, ask United fans which of the club’s remaining games this season they’re most looking forward to and that final against Nottingham Forest will probably top the list.
While the first team have sunk to fresh lows on an almost weekly basis this season, Travis Binnion’s Under-18s have thrilled on route to the final, which is now played over one leg.
Over 38,000 tickets have already been sold and with tickets only £1 and a week-and-a-half until it takes place that total could yet creep towards 50,000.
These United youngsters have had the experience of Old Trafford this season, with four of their five matches in previous rounds played at home. Those four games were won by a combined scoreline of 13-4, but they were also played in front of crowds of a few thousand.
It will be an entirely different experience a week on Wednesday, in terms of atmosphere, expectation and simply how it feels to play in front of such a big crowd.
But the first team game with Brentford on Monday could be a chance to help those teenagers. The star of the show, 17-year-old Alejandro Garnacho, has trained with the first team on a few occasions recently and came on for injury time against Chelsea on Thursday.
The Bees represent an easier assignment, however, and Garnacho should be getting more action on Monday. That experience in front of a capacity crowd will help him come May 11.
Garnacho might be the only player with that kind of experience, but given the season is over for Ralf Rangnick’s side, there could be some sense in including one or two other Under-18s in the matchday squad on Monday, such as centre-forward Charlie McNeil or one of the midfielders, Daniel Gore or Kobbie Mainoo.
Even just being able to experience Old Trafford in front of a capacity crowd, from the bench or just behind the bench, could be an advantage come the final.