After a three-week break from action the U23s faced off against rivals Liverpool at Leigh Sports Village following a draw at Anfield at first team level the day before.
Liverpool took the lead through a backheel finish by Harry Wilson. Josh Harrop equalised from the penalty spot at the start of the second half as it ended honours even.
The U23s were hoping to bounce back after a 2-0 defeat to Everton last time out. Scott McTominay and Matthew Olosunde were the two changes to starting line-up with Charlie Scott dropping to the bench and Ethan Hamilton absent following international duty.
Both sides showed their physicality in the early stages with challenges going in. Josh Harrop went in under Trent Alexander-Arnold, who fell following the challenge and needed treatment. Mamdou Sakho caught McTominay in the face with what appeared to be a deliberate elbow – no action was taken by the referee though.
In the continued absence of a recognised striker in the squad at U23s level Matthew Willock once again took up a more advanced role than he is accustomed to. He fired an early shot goalwards but a slight deflection off the boot of Sakho steered it wide of Kamil Grabara’s goal.
Liverpool carved out the better of the chances in the first half. The visitors would have been wondering how they didn’t take the lead in the 14th minute. Axel Tuanzebe was dragged wide while Regan Poole was taken out with a clever pass. The ball came into the box but good defending from Sadiq El Fitouri allowed Sam Johnstone enough time to get back and make a save from Marko Grujic.
However, Liverpool weren’t left rueing that missed chance for long. Three minutes later Danny Ings hit the woodwork with a header. The ball bounced out to Connor Randall whose shot was blocked by Tuanzebe. The cleared ball fell to Pedro Chirvella. It looked like Johnstone had the shot covered but Liverpool captain Harry Wilson was in the way and a skilful intervention saw the ball cleverly backheel in the other direction. With the keeper wrong footed the ball trickled over the line and gave Liverpool the lead.
Towards the end of the first half, Devonte Redmond was unlucky not to get an equaliser. Harrop picked out Redmond whose shot beat Grabara but couldn’t beat the woodwork and the crossbar kept it out. A free-kick in extra time was wickedly put into the box from Harrop but no United players were able to get to it and direct to into the net before it fell to Poole at the far post whose effort went skywards.
The home side equalised just 5 minutes after the restart. A brilliant run from McTominay forced Pedro Chirvella to take him down inside the penalty area. A penalty was awarded. Josh Harrop took it and scored past Grabara despite a short run up.
That spurred Liverpool on, and they had two chances in two minutes following the goal. There was a weak penalty shout at the other end of the pitch which the referee wasn’t inclined to give. Shortly afterwards the ball wasn’t cleared on the flank and the visitors slipped the ball in goalwards but the final shot went wide of the goal.
Sam Johnstone who penned a fresh deal earlier this week, was on hand to deny Danny Ings when the forward broke through on goal. Johnstone closed down the space well and blocked the attempt.
The visitors looked the more likely to take the lead. Grujic’s free header was nodded wide. In the 93rd minute Johnstone was on hand to clear Ings’ header over the bar and secure a point for United.
United’s next match is at home against Arsenal on Monday 24 October. Kick-off is at 7pm.
Man United: S. Johnstone, Williams, Tuanzebe (c), Poole, Riley, Redmond, Olosunde (Scott 64′), McTominay, Harrop, El Fitouri, Willock.
Unused Substitutes: Henderson, Tanner, Kehinde, Mitchell.
Goal(s): Harrop (50′ p).
Man of the Match: Sam Johnstone.
Liverpool: Grabara, Alexander-Arnold, Randall, Llori, Sakho, Stewart, Wilson (c) (Brannagan 82′), Chirvella, Grujic, Ejaria (Woodburn 79′), Ings.
Unused Substitutes: Kelleher, Maguire, Lennon.
Goal(s): Wilson (18′).