Manchester United finished third overall in the Mercedes Benz Junior Cup 2014. The young Reds played three matches on the second day of the six-a-side tournament.
The Under-19s first match was against Grasshopper Club Zurich in their second game of round two. Rothwell came close in the opening moments but Zurich managed to take the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Grimshaw made a great run forward at the end of the first half but his effort was saved.
However, it was a decidedly more controversial second half. Weir had an early shot that went wide but after that United did not make any attempt to cross the half way line.
There was no pressure on the Zurich players even though we were losing and had no possession. Given the work rates and attacking nature of the players on display, none of those watching could understand why they were going against their natural game. It transpired that a 1-0 loss would still be enough to qualify for the semi-finals.
However, it was very disappointing to see such a tactic being used, particularly at this level, as it went against the spirit of the game and saw the youngsters being booed by the other teams and spectators. It was very bad sportsmanship and totally uncharacteristic of a United team.
United then took on Schalke 04 in the semi-final. The two sides had faced off against each other on the first day of the tournament and the German side had narrowly won 2-1. There weren’t many chances for either side in the first half. Sam Byrne played very well and created a chance for himself which the German goalkeeper saved. Joel Pereira was called into action in the United goal in the second half and made some fine saves and with seconds remaining, Wilson had a long range shot but it was saved.
The match then went to penalties. It was a very poor shoot-out from United’s point of view. Rothwell, Weir and Pereira all missed and Schalke went through to the final 3-1 on penalties.
The lads had to pick themselves up quickly because that defeat meant that they had a third place play off to play in which they faced Zurich again. This time both teams kept playing until the end.
Goals from Harrop and Pereira had United 2-0 up by half time. McNair had a couple of chances in the second half but he couldn’t convert. Matty Willock and Liam Grimshaw also saw shots miss the target. With ten seconds remaining James Weir scored to make it 3 – 2 to seal third place in the tournament.