Manchester United have finished the U23s Premier League 2 season with a 3-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. A moment of brilliance from Josh Harrop gave United the lead, before the visitors turned the scoreline around at the start of the second half. However, two more goals from Harrop in the final stages of the game sealed victory and a 6th place finish.
Joel Pereira returned from injury to captain the side, ahead of potential first team minutes which Jose Mourinho hinted may be on the cards before the season is out. Mourinho was all smiles in the crowd as he made a rare appearance at a youth game along with his coaching staff, most likely looking at which players may make the step up in the remaining Premier League fixtures.
Spurs and United were battling relegation for the majority of the season and the first half performance showed why. Both teams were goal shy and didn’t trouble the goalkeepers. It was only after 30 minutes that either goalkeeper had to make a save, and even then it was a tame effort from Shilow Tracey which was collected by Joel Pereira.
A moment of brilliance from Josh Harrop, with less than ten minutes remaining in the first half, was the difference between the sides. Matthew Olosunde, who was United’s best performer in the first half, made a good run on the left flank. He cut inside and passed the ball back to Harrop outside the area.
The goal sparked the remainder of the half to life with both sides trading half chances. Tracey got past Devonte Redmond and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson but was foiled by Joel Pereira. Callum Gribbin shot an effort well off target. Then Shayon Harrison shot wide from outside the box before link-up play between the two Josh’s, Harrop and Bohui, almost had Bohui clear on goal.
However, the second half was an altogether different affair. Matt Wells must have given a brilliant half-time team talk because his side were raring to go when the whistle went. Within two minutes Spurs had equalised. Jaden Brown was left unmarked at the back post by Redmond after the ball was sent in by Tariq Hinds and he slotted it home.
Just four minutes later the visitors had taken the lead. Tracey saw his route to goal blocked off by Borthwick-Jackson. He kept his head, turned and found Samuel Shashoua in the area. The midfielder found an angle into the back of the net. United’s defence looked to have collapsed and that Spurs could score many more. Another attack saw three Spurs players bearing down on a couple of United defenders and beating them. Fortunately goalscorer Shashoma chose to try to add to his tally rather than passing and Joel Pereira was able to make an important save.
United made a series of changes, bringing on players who spent the majority of the season playing at u18 level, Ethan Hamilton, Zach Dearnley, and DJ Buffonge. Those changes improved the team and United started to grow back into the game. Joel Pereira still had to be alert and made a number of crucial interventions which kept United in the game.
Then two goals in 7 minutes completely turned the game around with the two Josh’s forming quite the double act. Bohui found himself on the left flank and managed to play the ball into Harrop. The midfielder did well to not try to power the ball through two defenders, instead electing to slow the ball and change the angle before powering into the back of the net to level the scores.
Again, Bohui was on hand with the assist for United’s third goal. Finding himself once more on the left wing he played the ball into Harrop in the penalty area. Harrop hurdled two defenders and then bore down on Brandon Austin’s goal. The goalkeeper and defender Connor Ogilvie were not going to stop him and he struck his third into the roof of the net for his 10th goal of the season.
The three points mean that United who did struggle against relegation during the season finish 6th in PL2. It was a pleasing victory which gave flashes of the future with the incoming substitutions of some of the current u18s squad. The hat-trick for Harrop in front of Mourinho will strengthen his chance of getting some first team minutes before the end of the season.
Man United: J. Pereira (c), Olosunde, Warren (Hamilton 55′), Poole, Borthwick-Jackson, Gribbin (Dearnley 65′), Kehinde, Willock, Redmond (Buffonge 81′), Harrop, Bohui.
Unused Substitutes: M. Johnstone, Dunne.
Goal(s): Harrop (37′, 80′, 87′).
Men of the Match: Josh Harrop and Joel Pereira.
Tottenham Hotspur: Austin, Hinds, Maghoma, Ogilvie, Brown, Lesniak (c), Amos, Shashoua (Loft 67′), Tracey (Georgiou 77′), Miller (Goddard 73′), Harrison.
Unused Substitutes: Whiteman, Marsh.
Goal(s): Brown (47′), Shashoua (51′).
Booking(s): Maghoma (43′).