Manchester United won the 2015 Mercedes Benz Junior Cup after beating VfB Stuttgart 3-2 on penalties in the final. This is the first time United have lifted in the trophy in their third year of competing.
There weren’t many clear cut chances created, although both teams kept probing for an opening. It was probably the most physical game of tournament for both sides with several tackles going in. The referee kept a tight hold on the game though.
Unusually for this style of football which focuses on the attacking side of things, defensive play was key from both sides in preventing goals. For the final, the outfield players weren’t the only ones who rotated. Paul McGuinness split the first half and second half between Joel Pereira and Dean Henderson, respectively.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah made a number of good interceptions to prevent chances and goals. Ro-Shaun Williams, who had a very good tournament, brilliantly defended against a Stuttgart attack that would undoubtedly have resulted in a goal. Williams then found himself up the other end of the pitch, but his shot was blocked by the Stuttgart goalkeeper. Devonte Redmond saw an effort go wide.
At the end of normal time the scoreline was goalless and six minutes of extra time were on the cards. Joel Pereira took over in goal. Joe Riley went close with an effort but he hadn’t found a finishing touch. Oliver Rathbone was later on hand to make a crucial block.
In an attempt to win the match, Joel Pereira started taking shots on his opposite number’s goal. Unfortunately no one had broken the deadlock and the game went to penalties.
Joel Pereira, who was captaining the side, was the hero of the hour, making three saves in the shoot-out. Charlie Scott, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Marcus Rashford scored for United. Ironically, the one penalty saved by Stuttgart was from Player of the Tournament Joe Riley.
Overall, it was a good tournament from United’s point of view. The improvement in the players from day one to the final day was good to see – that they could mentally make the adjustment to a different style of football.
Of course, it’s always good for young United players to pick up silverware, particularly at an internationally recognised tournament such as the Mercedes Benz Junior Cup.