FC United of Manchester claim European trophy with 4-0 win

DESENZANO DEL GARDA, Italy — FC United of Manchester, the breakaway club founded in opposition to the Glazer family’s takeover of Premier League giants Manchester United, won European silverware on Sunday with victory in the final of the Fenix Trophy.

First-half strikes from Curtis Jones and Aaron Bennett, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, plus two more after the break from Dontai Gabidon and substitute Lewis Gilboy sealed a 4-0 victory over Czech side Prague Raptors and a second Fenix title in three years.

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FC United, who compete in Northern Premier League Premier Division in the seventh tier of the English football pyramid, reclaimed the trophy after winning the inaugural competition in 2021-22, when they also defeated the Raptors in the final.

The club was set up in 2005 by “disaffected and disenfranchised” Manchester United fans who were protesting against the Glazers’ leveraged buyout at Old Trafford. They won three consecutive promotions in their first three seasons, and climbed as high as the sixth-tier National League North in 2015.

FC United manager Neil Reynolds said: “It was devastating last year when we didn’t do it and we got beat in the semifinal. But to give something back to this amazing football club, it’s what this weekend was about. We wanted to win the trophy for the fans and that’s what we’ve done.”

The Fenix Trophy, in its third season, is for semi-professional and amateur clubs which are fan-owned or have a strong community ethos. Twelve teams from 10 different European countries entered this season’s group stage, with the group winners qualifying for the final four mini-tournament at the Stadio Tre Stelle in Desenzano del Garda.

FC United beat fellow English club Lewes FC 1-0 in their semifinal on Friday courtesy of a goal from Joseph Ferguson, while Prague Raptors reached the final after winning an epic penalty shootout 13-12 against London side Enfield Town, who had begun the week by winning promotion to the National League South via the playoffs.

Raptors manager Kim Grant said: “It’s tough for the boys. I’m still proud of them. We just came out of blocks really slow. We weren’t supposed to play like that, but they played the straight long balls and they just caught out twice in the first half. And the second half obviously we were trying to go for it and get a goal back again. We were out, lost shaped a little bit. And again, two goals from straight long balls, but it hurts.

“We didn’t stop playing. We tried our best and our best wasn’t good enough for today because we weren’t at it. But we go again.”

In Sunday’s third-place playoff, Chris Whelpdale’s late goal from close range secured a 2-1 win for Lewes over Enfield, after Obi Onyeagwara had cancelled out Archie Tamplin’s early opener for Lewes.