Manchester United’s U23s were beaten 5-3 by Derby County at St. George’s Park on the 59th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. Callum Gribbin scored direct from a free-kick after just six minutes but Alex Babos equalised roughly 20 minutes later before Timi Max Elšnik scored a brace either side of half-time. Kellan Gordon scored Derby’s fourth before Emil Riis Jakobsen added a fifth. Devonte Redmond and Tosin Kehinde pulled a couple of goals back for United but that couldn’t spare United’s blushes.
United hoped to bounce back from a home defeat against Everton last time out, against the Rams who were bottom of the table before the game kicked off. Joel Castro Pereira and Ro-Shaun Williams were absent through injury while Regan Poole continues to serve his suspension. In the absence of those central defenders Charlie Scott partnered, captain, Axel Tuanzebe, in the heart of defence.
Callum Gribbin opened the scoring after just 6 minutes. Demetri Mitchell was brought down just on the edge of the penalty area and a free-kick was awarded to United. Gribbin stepped up to take it and surprised Kelle Roos by going for goal. He curled his left-footed effort into the near post and while the Dutch goalkeeper got a hand to it, he was unable to stop it going into the back of the net. The angle was very tight and it took some really good technique to hit that so accurately.
At that point it looked that it may be a question of how many United would get. Tosin Kehinde almost scored his first goal at this level but Roos was there to make the save. This led to a bit of a scramble but some good defending from Derby prevented Gribbin from getting to the ball and Roos was able to claim the ball. Josh Harrop had a chance from distance. Roos made the save but the camera angle from behind the goal suggests that the ball was always heading wide.
However, the Rams weren’t out of it yet. Twenty minutes after conceding, Alex Babos who had been relatively quite in the opening stages, popped up with an equaliser for the home side. The midfielder was left unmarked on the edge of the box and was able to curl his effort over Kieran O’Hara in the United goal.
The home side continued to press and got their reward with minutes to go before half-time. Matthew Olosunde struggled against Mason Bennett for the majority of the first half. Bennett managed to get past the full back again, and his cross found Timi Max Elšnik at the back post. Matty Willock allowed the midfielder to get clear and he headed home easily into the goal to give Derby the lead.
Gribbin almost did a repeat of the first half when he stepped up to take a free-kick from the opposite side of the pitch. Scott McTominay had been brought down outside the penalty area but this time the attacker’s set piece curled just wide to hit the side-netting.
Shortly after Charlie Scott had to leave the pitch following a clash of heads, the Reds lost composure at back. On two occassions United had possession of the ball in their own half, but careless play allowed Derby to win the ball and bear down on goal. Elšnik and Kellan Gordon both took advantage of this to score Derby’s third and fourth goals. Elšnik’s effort hit off substitute, Tyrell Warren, and looped over O’Hara and into the net. A missed tackle from Mitchell allowed Gordon the space to strike powerfully from the edge of the area.
Jakobsen who had several opportunities in the match then got on the score sheet as Elšnik turned provider while the United defence capitulated under the pressure from the team with the second worst goals scored in Premier League 2 at the start of the game, just ahead of United.
Late goals from Devonte Redmond and Tosin Kehinde made the scoreline more respectable but couldn’t rescue a point from the game. Matthew Olosunde got the ball into the box for Redmond. His first attempt came off the post but he had the composure to find the back of the net with his second try. Kehinde’s goal was his first at this level, and came after some really good work from Gribbin who dinked the ball into his path. There was still work for Kehinde to do as he took the ball on his chest, onto his right foot before scoring with his left.
It is yet another disappointing result under interim manager Nicky Butt and United must take care to stem this run of poor form if they wish to stay out of the relegation zone in the table.
Man United: O’Hara, Olosunde, Tuanzebe (c), Scott (Warren 64′), Mitchell, Harrop (Buffonge 72′), Kehinde, Willock, Gribbin, McTominay, Redmond.
Unused Substitutes: M. Johnstone, Whelan, Hamilton.
Goal(s): Gribbin (6′), Redmond, Kehinde (87′).
Booking(s): Mitchell (74′).
Man of the Match: Charlie Scott.
Derby County: Roos, Santos, Bateman, Cover, Macdonald, Bird (Edwards 85′), Elsnik, Babos, Gordon, Bennett, Jacobsen.
Unused Substitutes: Cresswell, Ravas, Bogle, Karic.
Goal(s): Babos (27′), Elsnik (40′, 67′), Gordon (69′), Jakobsen (72′).
Booking(s): MacDonald (56′).