Manchester United crashed out of the UEFA Youth League after a valiant 1-1 draw against Shakhtar saw the youngsters fail to make the knock-out stages.
The opening minutes of the match were quite cagey. Patrick McNair was booked after just ten minutes. Soon after, the Ukrainian side took a clever free-kick to Artur Miranyan which caught United mostly unaware. Luckily, Pierluigi Gollini was alive to the danger and was quickly off his line to make a crucial save. He was later required to make a routine stop from Viktor Kovalenko.
United had by far the better of the chances in the first half. Captain James Wilson showed beautiful control and clever feet to float past a few Donetsk players and pass the ball through to Pereira who squared it in front of goal but unfortunately there was no one there. Moments later, Wilson controlled well and passed to Pearson who was unfortunately unable to break through the Donetsk defence.
Josh Harrop did very well coming in from the left and played the ball through to Wilson who was ruled offside. Wilson was working really hard and it looked as though it was only a matter of time before one of the chances would result in a goal. Joe Rothwell then picked out Wilson who displayed neat footwork but the finish eluded him surrounded as he was by defenders. Sean Goss was unlucky to have a shot blocked and Wilson fired powerfully across the face of the Donetsk goal but no one was able to turn it in.
Wilson didn’t have the best start to the second half. He indicated early on that something wasn’t right with him and his gestures seemed to indicate that he felt sick or winded. Fortunately for United, their main attacking threat was well enough to continue. Wilson then won the ball from Mykola Matviyenko, only for the defender to barge him over inside the box. The referee didn’t award the penalty and moments later things looked to be totally against United when there were penalty appeals down the other end of the pitch. The referee, however, made the correct decision this time and booked Andriy Boryachuk for diving after Gollini did not make any contact.
The chances dried up slightly in the second half. Pereira got a shot away but it was easily saved by Bogdan Sarnavskiy. Sam Byrne, who came on as a substitute, also had a shot but although he did well the keeper was able to make the save at the near post.
Time was running out for the young Reds when 13 minutes from time, Donetsk broke the deadlock to take the lead. Zinchenko scored from a cross by Oleksandr Zubkov. This meant that United had to score two goals to progress to the next round.
United fought back valiantly after conceding and when Pereira’s shot struck a hand inside the box, Wilson didn’t wait for the referee and instead set up substitute Ashley Fletcher for the equaliser. That goal meant that it was a tense finish but unfortunately United couldn’t get the second goal.
It is a shame for the youngsters to go out at the group stage in his inaugural competition but any experience in Europe is good experience as they can learn from the negatives as well as the positives.
Manchester United: Gollini, Janko, McNair, McConnell, C. Evans, Harrop, Pearson (A. Fletcher 78′), Goss (Byrne 59′), Rothwell, A. Pereira, Wilson.
Unused substitutes: J. Pereira, Rowley, Willock, Barber, Redmond.