Man United’s U23s began their first Premier League International Cup campaign off to a winning start. A Josh Harrop goal gave United the victory over Villarreal in a delayed kick off at Leigh Sports Village.
United’s first ever fixture in the Premier League International Cup got off to an ominous start with the floodlights winking out just as the game was due to kick off. The power outage combined with the inclement weather conditions pushed the start of the match back by an hour, as the players had to complete three warm-ups before the game was finally underway.
Neither side showed any ill-effects from the delayed start but the visitors settled into the game more quickly. Right-back Edgar Ie had the first chance of the game but his effort went wide of Sam Johnstone‘s goal. Then Villarreal saw a good ball played across the face of the United box. Fortunately Charlie Scott got a slight touch on the ball which just did enough to disrupt Jose Carlos Lazo’s shot and see it go wide.
It appears that Warren Joyce had instructed his team to press the opposition and this was seen on a number of occasions in the first half evidenced by Scott McTominay putting early pressure on Joan Femenias in the Villarreal goal. Then Josh Harrop created an opportunity as he closed down a defender, picking up the ball. Harrop saw a gap open in the defence as he approached the goal but his shot went wide, curling away from the goal.
Joe Riley and Ethan Hamilton were linking up well on the left flank, in a partnership which developed as the match progressed. Riley made a decent run from his half before passing to Hamilton who crossed into the box. The towering McTominay headed the ball onto El Fitouri who, without pressure from a Villarreal defender, managed not to trouble Femenias with the shot. The flag was raised but as the replay clearly showed that the right-back was onside, perhaps the linesman took pity on him.
Hamilton played well and it was his pressure in midfield which saw United win the ball back. He ran forward and played the ball out to Harrop who had joined him on his run. Harrop fired low past Femenias to claim the lead.
Axel Tuanzebe stormed forward early in the second half and almost doubled United’s lead. After running up half of the pitch his shot from 25 yards was pushed away by Femenias. The captain however got hold of the rebound but this time the flag had been raised for offside.
Hamilton continued to prove a threat to Villarreal and he was taken down by Daniel Raba in a dangerous position. Charlie Scott who was on freekick duties for the evening stepped up to take the set-piece but unfortunately sent it over the crossbar.
Matty Willock who was playing in an unfamiliar striker position had a number of attempts in the second half coming in from the right flank but either a raised flag or Femenias denied him. Villarreal weren’t out of the game though. Mario Gonzalez’s effort beat Sam Johnstone but fortunately the woodwork was there to deny him and the ball bounced off the inside of the post and back out of harm’s way.
Substitute Tosin Kehinde was fouled and a free-kick was awarded to United with under 5 minutes remaining. Femenias came out but punched poorly. McTominay was there with a header but couldn’t direct it on target and it went over the crossbar.
United’s next fixture will be on 15 December against Sparta Prague.
Man United: Johnstone, El Fitouri, Tuanzebe (c), Poole, Riley, Scott, Redmond (Olosunde 46′), McTominay, Hamilton (Mitchell 90+5′), Harrop (Kehinde 81′), Willock.
Unused Substitutes: Henderson, O’Connor, Doughty.
Goal(s): Harrop (34′).
Booking(s): Harrop (19′), El Fitouri (90+5′).
Man of the Match: Ethan Hamilton.
Villarreal: Femenias, Ie, Alfonso (c) (Peris 46′), Bueno, Fernandez, Morlanes, Garcia (Martinez 54′), Guerra, Gonzalez, Raba, Lazo (Cantalapiedra 66′).
Unused Substitutes: Cantero, Acosta, Lopez, Doffo.
Booking(s): Garcia (20′).