By Nick Teale
Arsenal Under-18s boss Steve Bould insists that his side are not favourites to win this year's Premier Academy League title.
However, the Gunners legend believes this could be an opportunity for Arsenal's youngsters to show their class after a disappointing exit in the FA Youth Cup earlier this season.
Bould's team are the current Premier Academy League champions, but many of last season's victorious side are now too old to feature.
Manchester was the scene of a Semi-Final victory for Bould's side last term when Arsenal disposed of United's local rivals City at this stage of both the FA Youth Cup and Academy League Play-Offs.
Both Bould and Reserve-team manager Neil Banfield are always keen to stress that youth development is the No 1 priority for the Arsenal Academy. However, the Under-18s manager has affirmed that success is a part of player growth.
"They all want to win and that is part of development," he told Arsenal.com. "We don't go out and say it doesn't matter if you don't win because it does matter - that is their job.
"They are in a professional sports environment where winning does matter but we don't put that above development and performance.
"That [the Youth Cup exit] was a big disappointment and I think the most disappointing thing is that they didn't play at their potential, and that is what hurts them I think.
"But winning is not the be all and end all, as was not winning the FA Youth Cup. We are trying to produce players and within the group we think we have some good players.
"Manchester United believe they have a very good group and that is the sort of test we want to be giving the youngsters at our club. Playing against the best teams with the best players. That is a great part of their development."
However the Under-18s manager insists that of the four teams involved in the Semi-Finals, Arsenal will not be expected to claim the national title.
"We won't be favourites for it because other teams play over-age players in their squads," he explained before the Gunners found out who their Semi-Final opponents would be.
"There will be one or two who will play the four over-age players they are allowed to play.* But we don't mind that because it tests us.
"[If we did that] it wouldn't be fair on the players who have played all year."
Manchester United reached the Play-Offs after topping Academy League Group C. They won 16 of their 28 matches including a victory over Everton on Tuesday which saw them secure a place in the Play-Offs.
The Red Devils are managed by Paul McGuinness, a former player at the club who also turned out for Crewe Alexandra and Chester City. They are currently enjoying a 12-game unbeaten run but suffered a 3-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the Fifth Round of this season's FA Youth Cup.
The other Semi-Final takes place on Saturday and will see Nottingham Forest visit Leicester City.
Arsenal TV Online viewers will be able to see all the goals from Friday's clash during 'Arsenal Live' from 7pm the same evening, with extended highlights available next week.
*Under Premier Academy League Rules a team can field up to three Under-19 outfield players and an Under-19 goalkeeper.