Manchester United’s under 23s had a chance to overtake Derby County in the Premier League 2 table and go into 5th with a win today.
The likes of Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga and Shola Shoretire came into the side, after being in the first team bubble, but perhaps the stand-out name on the team sheet was 16 year old, Omari Forson.
United got the first goal straight from the kick-off. They worked it well from captain, Will Fish at center back up the right wing to Helm who played it first time in behind Derby’s full-back into the path of Forson. Forson passed it inside to Mejbri who attempted a back heel flick but the defender got a foot on it. The rebound fell to Forson, who had continued his run, and he played it first time to Elanga on the left of the box, who faced the defender 1 v 1. With a drop of the shoulder, Elanga made a yard of space and smashed it into the top corner with his left. It took 28 seconds.
Derby, however, hit back minutes later. From a throw in on the left, United were passive and Derby alive. Will Fish attempted to control the ball and bring it out but Olamide Ibrahim put a foot in and stole it from the United captain. Free in the box, Ibrahim curled his right foot strike in off the underside of the crossbar for the equalizer.
The early mayhem calmed but Derby continued to play direct, quick stuff in contrast to United passing it around well on the ground. Derby won plenty of duels in midfield and won free-kicks, keeping United honest. Derby’s front players, Luke Plange and eight goal Cameron Cresswell occupied United’s center backs well.
In the 31st minute, Derby took the lead. United’s defence were hesitant in clearing from a ball over the top and Derby won it back high on the right. Cresswell received it in space in the D. Centre-half Max Taylor didn’t get tight and Cresswell whipped a shot into the top left corner with his left foot.
Minutes later, United responded. After an intricate passing triangle on the right between Forson, Mejbri and Helm, the cross into the box was scuffed by Charlie McCann. The ball bounced back off McCann’s standing foot to the edge of the box. Arriving late, Ethan Galbraith, who had returned to midfield from suspension, smashed it in on the half-volley.
United took the lead again minutes later. Max Taylor made up for his earlier mistake with a good headed clearance that looped out to Mejbri outside the United box. The young Frenchman controlled it brilliantly with his knee and feinted past the Derby midfield as he took it down, before playing it on to Forson down the right. Forson carried and passed well into Elanga’s run, who was through on goal. He dummied to shoot and cut back inside before hitting it with his left. The strike was palmed out and into Shoretire’s path, who slotted it in.
United looked like they could score at will.
Just before half-time, they made it 2-4. Picking it up in the center circle, Shoretire carried the ball into Derby’s half and before he was closed down, he chipped a clever through ball into the path of a good central Forson run. Forson was clean through on goal and his low, left foot shot went through the diving keeper’s legs.
Derby began the second half aggressively again, with the rain lashing down. There were a few tetchy moments.
United continued to look dangerous in attack, especially on the break. They should have had a penalty after Elanga beat his man with pace on the left and crossed it. Alvaro Fernandez, who had come on for the carded Fish at half time, moved to connect but he was taken out from behind in the box. The referee, however, waved play on.
The Reds added to their tally though on the 71st minute. A short corner was worked well on the left. Elanga played a 1-2 with Forson and broke into Derby’s area. He feinted to shoot twice, surrounded by Derby players, and then left fly. The ball nestled into the right side netting.
Derby hit the post a minute later after a good counter down United’s left.
With numbers forward, and perhaps encouragement from their previous attack, Derby were exposed at the back. Wellens carried the ball forward and found Mark Helm, who had been moved into midfield. Helm faked to shoot before playing it wide to Elanga in space. He picked out Shoretire moving in the box and, on the left of the 6 yard area, Shoretire hit it low with his left for United’s sixth.
It was United’s 57th goal of the season and one of many goal-fests that put them into fifth before the final game next week.