Manchester United’s U21s were unable to maintain their run of five consecutive clean sheets as they were comprehensively beaten 2-1 at the hands of London rivals Arsenal.
United’s starting XI saw the return of Ryan Tunnicliffe from his loan spell at Barnsley along with Pierluigi Gollini’s second appearance for the U21s between the posts.
Arsenal started the brighter and after a Charni Ekangamene tackle on the edge of the United box, Arsenal’s Conor Henderson bought out a superb save from Gollini as he stretched to his bottom left to push away from goal. The game struggled to make pace as the well known sloping pitch at Barnet played a big factor in the style of the game.
Both teams struggled to keep hold of the ball and were coming under pressure from the opposition but in the 39th minute, the game came to life. Superb work down the right wing from United led to a Charni Ekangamene 25-yard wonder strike into the bottom right corner of Arsenal’s goal to give United the lead against the run of play. But Arsenal were soon back in the game.
Arsenal’s right back Bellerin once again got forward and caused problems for United and as he sprinted into the box, he went over an out stretched Jesse Lingard leg to give Arsenal a penalty. It was a decision which was not welcomed by the United players as on second viewing, the amount of contact was debatable. Conor Henderson powered the penalty straight down the middle to leave the scores 1-1 at half time in a relatively even game.
The second half started very much like the first half with Arsenal controlling the run of play, leaving United to mainly play on the counter attack with young Januzaj up front on his own. Some last ditch defending by United kept Arsenal at bay but in the 81st minute, another testing Conor Henderson free kick rocketed against United’s crossbar.
The warning signs were there then with just 40 seconds of normal time remaining, Arsenal’s Spanish right back Belerin once again found himself in a forward position and he struck a powerful volley past the near the post of Gollini’s goal to make it 2-1. United had a couple of chances late on but nothing really came of it.
United’s lack of strikeforce was clear to see with Kiko Macheda and Joshua King both leaving the club in the January transfer window and Warren Joyce’s reluctance to play John Cofie who has just returned from a loan at Notts County. United remain second in their elite group although Liverpool are right on their tails in third with a game in hand.