A day after the 2-0 defeat to Liverpool in the first leg of the round of 16 Europa League tie, the u21s played their version of the fixture in the league, this time it ended honours even with a 1-1 draw at Prenton Park.
Antonio Valencia made his comeback following a foot injury suffered in a match against Man City earlier this season. Adnan Januzaj was involved having been ineligible to take part in the Europa League fixture due to his involvement in the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund during his loan spell. Joe Riley, James Weir, Donald Love, Andreas Pereira, and Regan Poole were also in the squad. Meanwhile, the Liverpool ranks included Martin Skrtel and Steven Caulker.
The first half finished goalless with not many clear-cut chances from either side. Januzaj came closest to breaking to the deadlock when his free-kick hit the wall and rebounded to him. His follow-up volley hit the post and was cleared. Joel Pereira had one or two easy catches to make but wasn’t really tested. A shot from Januzaj went well wide and the forward blamed the bobbly pitch for skewing his effort.
An interesting contest developed on the left flank as the in-form Sheyi Ojo took on recent first-team debutante Joe Riley as Liverpool came more into the game in the final 15 minutes of the first half. The referee also took a strong position on fouls with three yellow card brandished before the first 45 minutes were over.
Valencia was replaced at half-time, by Timothy Fosu-Mensah, in a scheduled substitution having completed 45 minutes on his return. Jerome Sinclair scored within five minutes of the restart. A poor clearance by Ro-Shaun Williams led to a Ryan Kent ball into Sinclair who lifted the ball over Joel Pereira to take the lead.
The goal buoyed Liverpool and they put pressure on United’s U21s, with a number of attacks proving dangerous at United’s left flank as they dominated the opening period of the second half. Riley made a vital touch to alter the path of the ball as it was about to find Jordan Ibe on the back post.
Sadiq El Fitouri picked out Weir with a ball across the face of the Liverpool goal. The captain slotted home to pull an equaliser back with just over a quarter of an hour remaining. Weir then forced Daniel Ward into an acrobatic save after a good run and shot.
Substitute Alex O’Hanlon tested Joel Pereira shortly after joining the fray but the goalkeeper made the save. Riley played a fantastic cross into the box, and Januzaj launched himself to reach it but failed to make a connection. Shortly afterwards Joel Pereira made a great save with his feet from a set-piece.
The hard-fought draw sends United back to the top of the U21s Premier League table, ahead of Sunderland on goal difference.
Man Utd: J. Pereira, Valencia (Fosu-Mensah 46′), Williams, McNair, Riley, A. Pereira (Poole 94′), El Fitouri, McTominay, Love, Weir, Januzaj (Redmond 92′).
Unused Substitutes: Henderson, Rothwell.
Goal(s): Weir (73′).
Booking(s): A. Pereira (39′), McNair (45′), Fosu-Mensah (83′), Love (88′).
Man of the Match: Joe Riley.
Liverpool: Ward, Randall (Whelan 77′), Smith, Skrtel (Maguire 61′), Caulker, Chirivella, Ibe (O’Hanlon 69′), Brannagan, Sinclair, Kent, Ojo.
Unused Substitutes: George, Madger Gomes.
Goal(s): Sinclair (50′), Ojo (70′).
Booking(s): Brannagan (41′).