Manchester United’s Under 21 side faced a tough opening fixture in the EFL Trophy away to Lincoln City from League One.
United are one of four teams in group F, Lincoln, Bradford and Sunderland the others.
The Reds started with a young side and had only one fit centre-back in Bjorn Hardley who played in the middle of a back three.
Full backs, Alvaro Fernandez and Charlie Wellens played on either side of him.
Former United Academy graduate, Regan Poole, started at right back for Lincoln.
United had an early scare in the game. In the second minute, Fernandez failed to control a loose square pass around his own box, but, after latching on, striker Teddy Bishop passed it just wide of the left post.
United then gained a bit of composure and possession but Lincoln looked the stronger and more dangerous in attack.
The first goal came in the 23rd minute for the home side after quick passing down the right wing and into the path of an underlapping run by Conor McGrandles.
The midfielder drove it low across United’s box.Midfielder Martin Svidersky slid towards his own goal to intercept but instead he deflected it off the post. The ball rebounded back out past goalkeeper Dermot Mee where the arriving Anthony Scully tapped in.
Although United pushed back with some half chances and pressing, Lincoln kept exploiting the positional inexperience of Charlie Wellens and D’mani Mellor on the Red’s right flank.
Scully got his second in the 32nd minute. Lincoln recovered the ball after a United attack outside their box and played a long ball over the top to Scully in space on the left. He drove towards goal before cutting inside and powering it into the top right corner.
United’s heads dropped then and Lincoln looked comfortable until a minute before half-time when Dillon Hoogewerf picked it up and dribbled well across midfield from the left.
He played Charlie McNeill in on the right of Lincoln’s box but his low drive hit the side net on the wrong side of the near post.
The Red Devils started the second half determined, putting in more tackles and trying to match Lincoln’s physicality.
However, the League One side started to mount pressure again after a period.
Irishman Scully got his hat-trick in the 57th minute. Alvaro Fernandez sold himself after trying to intercept a pass down his side which left winger Remy Longdon free in behind. His looped cross was met by Scully’s glancing header which nestled into the left corner of the net.
The game looked over and United were hanging on for a period, until just over 20 minutes from full-time.
Midfielder Charlie Savage hit a crisp pass into Shola Shoretire in a pocket of space in the number 10 position. He turned and dribbled a short distance before reversing a through-ball into McNeill’s diagonal run inside the box.
He instinctively hit it low with his left back the other way and past Lincoln’s young keeper, Sam Long.
Suddenly there was a bit of hope for a comeback.
Zidane Iqbal and Sam Mather came on for Mellor and Hoogewerf.
It became a different game with United threatening Lincoln’s box and Fernandez and Savage having pot-shots.
Hannibal Mejbri, who had been United’s best player, with good carries and passing throughout, went down with cramp, but minutes later played a short corner with Charlie Savage before crossing well. Hardley connected with a bullet header to make it 3 – 2 in the 88th minute.
2 minutes after that, Mejbri found himself sent off after a second yellow. He had been frustrated after not receiving a free-kick and stuck out a leg. It was deserved.
But the Red Devils kept pushing. It looked like Shoretire might have been fouled in stoppage time in the Lincoln box after a clever Iqbal through-ball, but the referee waved play on.
The full-time whistle blew with Lincoln hanging on.
It was a valiant late effort from United but it finished 3-2.
Savage, Mejbri and Shoretire were the Red’s standouts.
Read our player ratings for the match here.