Nicky Butt brought United to Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park to take on Reading in his second game in interim charge of the U23s. The Royals took the lead through Dominic Hyam. However, a Josh Harrop brace in 36 seconds gave United the lead in an exciting first half. Joseph Mendes put Reading back on level terms early in the second half.
Joe Riley returned to the starting line-up having missed out on last week’s 2-0 loss to Sunderland due to a slight hamstring twinge. 17-year-old Callum Gribbin made his first start for the U23s and his second appearance of the season at this level.
United were fortunate not to concede early on when Joseph Mendes was running through on goal. Kieran O’Hara didn’t come out to claim the ball on time, which meant that when he did, he first knocked over Axel Tuanzebe, before colliding with Regan Poole. Poole picked up a slight knock in the incident but managed to run off the after-effects.
Gribbin showed his flair in the first half. He played a beautiful ball across to Josh Harrop on the far side. The ball was played into the box and the oncoming Gribbin but in his attempt to get the ball the young attacker got tangled with the Luke Southwood in the Reading goal. Gribbin, who only recently returned from injury, was left limping after the crash but after a prolonged period managed to stop limping.
Southwood didn’t look comfortable when pressed by the United attack. Scott McTominay capitalised on that early on, forcing the goalkeeper to give away a corner. After the set-piece was taken the ball fell back out to Sean Goss whose ball in found Devonte Redmond‘s header. The midfielder wasn’t able to direct his header on target though.
The Reds were forced into an early substitution when Joe Riley pulled up mid-stride at the start of one of his typical lung-busting runs down the left flank. Riley was immediately replaced by Sadiq El Fitouri, in a straight-swap.
Dominic Hyam gave the home side the lead after 25 minutes despite United being the more threatening of the two sides. Poor defending from United meant that a cross wasn’t cleared. After a scramble the ball came out to Hyam who was unmarked and he tapped in.
However, minutes later the scoreline was reversed. Gribbin ran past a defender and ended up one-v-one with Southwood. The goalkeeper tripped Gribbin as he was through on goal and a penalty was awarded. Harrop took it and calmly dispatched it into the back of the net.
A mere 36 seconds later Harrop scored a second. Harrop and McTominay bore down on the Reading goal after Harrop won the ball back following the restart and slotted home. There was some controversy over the goal, however, as the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside against McTominay for his movement in front of Southwood as Harrop took his shot.
Just before half-time it looked like Reading might be back on level pegging. Reading took a free-kick. O’Hara blocked the effort but confusion in the United defence saw Tuanzebe kick the ball at Poole and the ball ricocheted out just wide of the post.
Mendes, however, did equalise for the Royals early in the second half. The defence once again failed to deal with a ball sent into the box. The ball was sent in from the corner and headed across goal. Mendes was unmarked in the area and volleyed past O’Hara.
Chances started to dry up for United. Apart from an early curling effort from Harrop to get a hat-trick which went wide and a powerhouse of a shot from Goss which hit the crossbar, the Reds didn’t really threaten the Reading goal for most of the second half.
In the final minutes it was end-to-end football with chances for both sides to claim the victory however it ended honours even.
Man United: O’Hara, Williams, Tuanzebe (c), Poole (Olosunde 85′), Riley (El Fitouri 20′), Gribbin (Mitchell 84′), Goss, McTominay, Willock, Redmond, Harrop.
Unused Substitutes: Moutha-Sebtaoui, Kehinde.
Goal(s): Harrop (29′ [p], 30′).
Booking(s): Williams (39′), El Fitouri (52′), Goss (72′).
Man of the Match: Josh Harrop.
Reading: Southwood, Sheppard, Hyam, Jules, Richards, Kelly, Rinomhota, Harriott (Frost 64′), Barrett, Mendes (Smith 75′), Novakovich.
Unused Substitutes: Tupper, East, Andresson.
Goal(s): Hyam (25′), Mendes (52′).
Booking(s): Mendes (31′), Sheppard (78′).