Manchester United took on Arsenal at Leigh Sports Village in the first of two matches in an unusually busy week for Warren Joyce’s side. The goal which proved the difference between the sides came from an unlikely source, centre-back Ro-Shaun Williams, who found the back of the net with a header at the back post.
For the first time in quite some time, an unchanged side was named for the U23s, however, that was short-lived as Scott McTominay was replaced prior to kick-off by Demetri Mitchell. McTominay had picked up a knock in a training session on Sunday, seemed fit to play but didn’t feel comfortable in the warm-up and was replaced as a precaution. Callum Whelan took Mitchell’s spot on the substitutes’ bench.
The Reds took the lead after just seven minutes, having shown greater intensity going forward than in the previous matches. Josh Harrop sent in a good corner to the back post where Ro-Shaun Williams was waiting to head in from close range. It was the defender’s first goal at reserve level.
There was a potential claim for a handball as Axel Tuanzebe slapped the ball down with his hand in the penalty area as he went to ground but it would have been harsh on the captain. His central defensive partner, Regan Poole, was called into action minutes later to make a clearance in the box and prevent a likely goal for Arsenal.
United’s initial attacking forays were subdued slightly as the half wore on with the visitors growing into the game more and the majority of the play taking place in the middle third of the pitch.
In the final minutes of the first half, the attacking impetus grew again. Matthew Olosunde was picked out by Mitchell. Olosunde was through on goal but hesitated before taking the shot allowing Hugo Keto get in position to block his effort. Sadiq El Fitouri also had an effort at the end of the half but his attempt lacked accuracy, going high and wide.
Harrop and Riley linked up well in the second half, with most of United’s good play coming from the left flank. Harrop went on a run, cutting inside as the space opened up in front of him he took on the shot from range but Keto was there to save. Moments later Riley went on a similar driving run but again the Arsenal goalkeeper made the save.
Devonte Redmond saw a weak shot saved after being picked out by Harrop. Then Riley should have been credited with an assist. He went on a fantastic run and having pulled a defender out with him pulled the ball back into Mitchell who was in space in the box. Unfortunately Mitchell didn’t appear to be able to make up his mind for the shot and hit it straight at an Arsenal defender.
Arsenal also started to give Sam Johnstone some work to do and got their first shot on target mid-way through the second half. Eddie Nketiah was lively up front for the Gunners for most of the evening but was well marshaled by the defence. He found himself in space at one stage and picked out a teammate but Tuanzebe was there to stop him. Poole also had to be alive to make a crucial clearance from Vlad Dragomir.
There was some late pressure from Arsenal in the 5 minutes of added time, however, the team defended as a unit to secure the 1-0 victory and the three points.
United are back in action this Friday afternoon as they take on Tottenham Hotspur at the London club’s training ground. Kick-off at 12:00pm.
Man United: Johnstone, Williams, Tuanzebe (c), Poole, Riley, Olosunde, El Fitouri, Redmond, Willock (Scott 86′), Harrop, Mitchell (Kehinde 67′).
Unused Substitutes: O’Hara, Whelan, Buffonge.
Goal(s): Williams (7′).
Booking(s): Olosunde (63′).
Man of the Match: Joe Riley.
Arsenal: Keto, Johnson, Da Silva, Bennacer (c), Da Graca, Pileas, Dragomir, McGuane, Nketiah, Hinds (Robinson 79′), Mourgos (Eyoma 78′).
Unused Substitutes: Osei-Tutu, Virginia, Bola.