The under 23 Premier League 2 season kicked off for Manchester United, with crowds back at Leigh Sports village, against Leicester City.
The Reds were without the talented attacking midfielder Hannibal Mejbri due to suspension.
They started the game brightly with the majority of possession and good interplay between Shola Shoretire and Zidane Iqbal.
A heavy rain shower seemed to put a dampener on United’s good start and Leicester won a penalty in the eighth minute.
Jake Wakeling stepped up, but his low strike to the left was well saved and held by Matej Kovar.
Leicester started to dominate. Their left winger, Tawanda Maswanhise cut inside minutes after the penalty and hit a powerful shot. It drew another good save from Kovar.
United wrestled some possession back towards the 20 minute mark.
After an incisive through ball into the box, Shoretire’s off-balance, side foot finish went just past the right post.
The first goal came for Leicester on the 30th minute. Diminutive midfielder Sammy Braybrook pounced on a loose ball in midfield and carried it, before playing a ball through United’s back four into Wakeling. The centre forward drove to the left of goal before shooting back to the right, through defender, Bjorn Hardley’s legs and past the rooted Kovar.
United looked frustrated for a period after that, but as half time drew nearer, they built some pressure.
Just before the break, D’mani Mellor took control of a loose Leicester back pass but his snap shot was smothered well by Leicester’s keeper, Brad Young.
H.T. 1 – 0
The Reds looked more energetic early in the second half and pushed bodies forward for an equalizer but Leicester looked threatening on the counter.
Dillon Hoogewerf and Charlie Savage came on at the hour mark.
A clever through ball from left back Alvaro Fernandez put Shoretire in on goal between Leicester’s defence. He was pulled back and unbalanced as he shot. Young made another good save.
Last season’s under 18s top scorer, Charlie McNeill came on in the 67th minute but before he could get a touch United were hit with a sucker punch.
The powerful Daley-Campbell broke past Fernandez on the right wing before driving a low cross into Kasey McAteer’s feet. He controlled it quickly and smashed it low past Kovar.
After that United’s heads dropped a little and Leicester were winning midfield duels again.
But around the 75th minute, United’s subs seemed to settle into the game’s rhythm and won momentum back.
With seven minutes to go, Charlie Wellens broke with the ball in space down the right wing. His cross was deflected and it looped high into the box.
Mellor challenged bravely for it and headed down. The ball bounced into the near post side net.
1 – 2
All of a sudden it was a different game.
In the last minute, Hoogewerf picked the ball up on the left wing and played a ball behind the Leicester defence into the underlapping Fernandez.
The Spaniard didn’t look favourite to retain possession but he used his shoulder to ease the defender off the ball and crossed low. It was deflected back to him, but on the second attempt, he picked out McNeill outside the six yard box.
McNeill swiveled and dug out a bobbling left foot strike. It nestled into the left of the goal.
In true United fashion, they weren’t happy with the draw and went for it in stoppage time.
In the 94th minute, McNeill nearly won it, after stealing the ball from a Leicester defender, but his finish was just wide.
A draw would have to do, after an exciting first game of the season.
Final score: 2 – 2
UNITED: Kovar; Wellens, McShane, Hardley, Fernandez; Levitt, Svidersky (Savage 61); Forson (McNeill 67), Iqbal (Hoogewerf 61), Shoretire; Mellor.