An under-strength Manchester United drew 1-1 with Norwich City in a fiesty encounter at Carrow Road tonight.
Adel Gafaiti gave Norwich the lead with a header from a set-piece in the first half but Josh Harrop claimed the equaliser for United with a long range strike.
The Reds were only able to put four players on the bench this evening as the squad was reduced due to the injury to Tom Thorpe, the loan of Ben Pearson to Barnsley and the U18s preparing for an FA Youth Cup game on Tuesday.
The back four was makeshift with only Saidy Janko being deployed in the position he has most regularly found himself in this season. Liam Grimshaw and Marnick Vermijl were the central defenders and Donald Love played in an unfamiliar left-back role.
The talking points from the match will unfortunately not be football related as poor refereeing made a huge impact on the game. Kyle McFadden made an awful challenge on Nick Powell which went unpunished and signalled the referee’s stance on fouls on United players.
Jesse Lingard, who was making his comeback from injury, was taken down just outside of the penalty area but no foul was awarded. Then the referee waived away two penalty claims for fouls on Powell with no foul being deemed to have occurred.
The best chances of the first half from a United point of view came from Will Keane and Jesse Lingard but Keane’s shot didn’t have sufficient power behind it and Lingard’s effort was blocked by the goalkeeper. Norwich took the lead from a set-piece. Gafaiti was allowed to jump unchallenged in the box despite being marked by Grimshaw and he headed home the opening goal of the game. Loza was inches away from doubling the score following a good cross in from Hall-Thompson.
The second half was marginally better from United. Norwich came close to scoring again but this time the Reds managed to press forward. Josh Harrop managed to create something from nothing with a long range right-footed effort which was too powerful for the goalkeeper to deflect away from goal.
The referee failed to take control of the game and pushing and shoving broke out after Powell was fouled by McGeehan. McGeehan finally got a card but most likely only because of the argument on the pitch. Powell had a shot from distance after space had opened up but it was easily saved by the keeper.
Andreas Pereira went off injured, prompting a reshuffle of the team as defender Callum Evans replaced him. Lingard was substituted around ten minutes later, his final involvement being a shot when arguably the better option was to pass to Will Keane.
Powell’s work-rate, particularly in the second half, was great. He popped up all over the pitch and attempted to find Will Keane up front. Keane did get possession of the ball in extra time and was one-on-one with the Norwich keeper but his effort went uncharacteristically over the crossbar.
There was an overall lack of organisation from United, particularly in defence, but found all over the pitch and several players will rightly be disappointed in their own performances. The point places United third in the Barclays U21 Premier League table, behind Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
Manchester United: Amos, Janko, Grimshaw, Vermijl, Love, Lingard (A. Fletcher 79′), A. Pereira (C. Evans 67′), Harrop, Weir, Powell, Keane.
Unused Substitutes: O’Hara, Willock.
Bookings: Love, Grimshaw, Keane.
Man of the Match: Nick Powell.