Manchester United’s U21s began the defence of their U21s Barclays Premier League title with an away draw against Leicester City.
United fielded a relatively inexperienced team in the opening match of the season with the more experienced players at this level like Will Keane, Ben Pearson and Joe Rothwell having left on loan earlier in the transfer window.
Meanwhile, Leicester’s side were bolstered by Leonardo Ulloa up front, supported by former United players Jack Barmby and Tom Lawrence.
Leicester dominated the opening stages of the game, with the Reds barely making it out of their own half for stretches and the main chances came from set pieces.
Lawrence had a good chance from a free-kick with a flicked ball which Joel Pereira did to block and then collect. James Weir also saw a shot from a free-kick blocked by Liam Moore. Leicester took the lead following a free-kick which Donald Love conceded. The ball was floated into the box and Ashley Fletcher flicked it home past his own goalkeeper.
It looked as though United wouldn’t have enough to get back into the match before half time with minimal attempts to get forward but ten minutes after the opener, Varela capitalised on an error from a Foxes defender to gain possession.
The right-back, who spent last season on loan with Real Madrid Castilla, then ran across the penalty area to find space before finishing with his left foot.
The Reds came out slightly better in the second half. Josh Harrop curled a free-kick just over the bar, as United had more possession, although largely without penetration.
Leicester were still creating the better opportunities with a Benalouane backheel to Barmby in the box but Love was there to block the shot. An Ulloa header was also blocked. Willock, Harrop and Fletcher had shots from range but none tested Maddison in the Foxes goal. Joel Pereira made a save from the final kick of the ball, sending Jak McCourt’s freekick over the crossbar.
The U21s will probably be happy to take a point on the road against an experienced Leicester side.
Leicester City: Maddison, Benalouane, Chilwell, McCourt (c), Elder (Ndukwu 71′), Moore, Dodoo, Cain (Sesay 46′), Lawrence, Barmby (Panayiotou 60′), Ulloa.
Unused Substitutes: Miles, Smith-Varnham.
Goal(s): Fletcher OG (23′).
Manchester United: J. Pereira, Varela, Love, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson, Weir, Goss, Grimshaw (c), Willock (El Fitouri 76′), Harrop, Fletcher (Redmond 91′).
Unused Substitutes: Henderson, McTominay, Riley.
Goal(s): Varela (33′).
Man of the Match: James Weir.