Manchester United’s Under-21s beat Leicester City 1-0 thanks to a solitary goal from Davide Petrucci at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry tonight.
With the raft of young players that went on loan on transfer deadline day, as well as the sale of Under-21 regular Larnell Cole, there was a more youthful look to the starting line up although there were experienced players dotted throughout the team.
Michael Keane captained the side on his return from his loan spell at Derby County and was partnered by Donald Love in an unfamiliar central defensive role. James Wilson returned from his slight ankle injury to lead the line in Warren Joyce’s 100th domestic match in charge of the Under-21s.
United dominated the first half as the younger members of the side gelled well with the more experienced figures. Jesse Lingard, playing in a free role behind the lone striker Wilson, did well on the left flank to get the ball to Reece James who put in a great ball across the face of goal but Wilson wasn’t able to make contact.
As the half continued, Petrucci chipped a ball over the Leicester defence to pick out Lingard but the bounce of the ball took it far enough away from him to prevent the shot. Saidy Janko proved a threat down the right hand side and one of his many runs saw the ball go through to Wilson who was crowded out at the near post.
Wilson also had a good night and his work rate meant the Leicester defence were under pressure whenever they had the ball. He went on a great run but didn’t catch the effort quite right and his shot went wide. This pressure meant that when Logan saw Wilson running towards him and picked up the ball outside the penalty area. Petrucci stepped up to send the free kick flying into the back of the net.
Jeffrey Schlupp, who previously was on trial with United, had Leicester’s best chance of the game but he blasted his shot over as Amos was left to be a spectator in the first half.
Leicester improved in the second half but disciplined play from the defence as well as Ben Pearson and Joe Rothwell in midfield meant that United never looked to be in too much danger.
The goalmouth action petered out for United. Amos had a couple of saves to make in the second half but he was equal to them and they didn’t pose much of a threat to his clean sheet. That win sees the Under-21s go 7th in the table.
Warren Joyce spoke to MUTV after the game and described the current Under-21 Premier League as a ‘complete joke that wasn’t conducive to youth development’. He questioned how it could be described as a league when teams only played each other once.
The lack of regular games at this level is part of the reason why so many of our youngsters were sent out on loan as currently the gap between the Under-21 level and first team level means that it’s difficult to assess whether they are ready to make the step up.
Manchester United: Amos, Janko, Love, M. Keane, R. James, Rothwell, Pearson, Petrucci, A. Pereira (McNair 91′), Lingard, Wilson. Unused Substitutes: Grimshaw, Gollini, Rowley, Willock.