Another Manchester derby, but the same excitement as ever. Manchester United’s Under 23s have hovered solidly around mid-table after a disappointing previous season in Division 2, while Manchester City top the Premier League 2 table, with the season nearing its end.
Despite their league position, the City youth players have rarely had a look-in at first team level and may look at United’s historical stat of having an academy graduate in every senior match-day squad since 1937 in envy. In recent years, talents such as Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz have sought to leave City due to a lack of opportunities, and this year, defender Eric Garcia will leave for Barcelona.
Both team line-ups were strong, as expected for such a tie, although City’s was a little older, with most of United’s side still eligible for the Under 18s.
City started strongly, dominating possession, probing and pressing high. They also had some dangerous set pieces.Prolific centre-forward, Liam Delap, missed a good chance after a decent cross from the right on the tenth minute.
A City goal looked inevitable and it came on minute 14. United tried to play out from the back and passed a loose square ball which was read by the City deep midfielder, Romeo Lavia. He broke through and rolled a ball across the box for Edoze to tap in.
After that, United had more possession but not much threat.
On the 20th minute, City midfield captain, Tommy Doyle, found himself in space at the edge of United’s box. His strong shot was saved well by Ondrej Mastny, who is inexperienced at Under 23 level.
A minute later, Delap picked up the ball in space on the left and cut inside at pace before hitting a whipped shot that, again, brought a good save from Mastny. The rebound came back out to Delap, his shot saved again.
For the last 20 minutes of the half, United started to gain ground. Charlie Wellens and Hannibal Mejbri started to link up well with Anthony Elanga down the right-hand side, but the final ball was missing.
The half ended with United lucky not to be more than one goal down despite having a better final 20 minutes.
The second half began more evenly but five minutes in Alvaro Fernandez gave the ball away sloppily again on the halfway line. City broke ruthlessly with it and the counter ended with their right-winger, Cole Palmer, cutting in on his left, 25 yards out, and rifling it into the top corner.
United tried hard not to let their heads drop after that, but City continued to create danger and actually were wasteful.
Fresh from travelling with the first team for the Europa League last night, Anthony Elanga was by far United’s best player. On minute 59, he carried the ball at pace from the right, across City’s back four before playing a one-two inside the box and shooting just over.
In the 77th minute United gave the ball away through poor concentration again and City punished them for the third time. Tommy Doyle broke in behind Fernandez down the right and cut the ball back inside to Palmer, who curled it in with his left.
Despite another brilliant late run, down the left this time, from Elanga that resulted in a good shot and the only real save the City keeper had to make, the three-nil scoreline flattered United.
The only consolation was that United can point to the many Under 23-eligible talents they have out on loan. City’s youth, on the other hand, might be wondering what they have to do to push into their first team in more meaningful games.