Manchester United’s u23s hosted bottom of the table Derby County at Leigh Sports Village last night.
The United youngsters got off to a bright start in the first minute of play with Shola Shoretire getting to the byline and centreing for Charlie Savage, but the midfielder’s shot was blocked and D’Mani Mellor’s follow up header went over the bar.
Just seconds later it could have been a penalty, as Mellor raced onto the end of a poor back pass and was bundled over. But the ref waved play on.
The fourth minute saw a great sweeping ball from Savage out to the left find Noam Emeran, who played into Shoretire on the edge of the box and a one touch pass opened up Zidane Iqbal in the area, but the Iraqi international slipped as his shot went wide.
The match was all United, with Savage pulling the strings from deep with some spectacular passes to start attacks.
Alvaro Fernandez opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. A give and go with Iqbal at the edge of the box allowed him to drive into the area and despite his first shot being saved, he was quickest to react and knock home his own rebound.
Ondrej Mastny wasn’t called into action until the 44th minute but it was a great save after Derby broke down the left.
Despite the total dominance of possession throughout the first half, United couldn’t manage to add a second and went into the break up 1-0.
The second half continued in a similar fashion with United on top. Iqbal worked an opening with deft footwork at the edge of the box but he couldn’t get his shot off quick enough and it was blocked.
Against the run of play, former United player Osazee Aghatise managed to run straight past three United players and equalise out of nowhere.
A second later he had another chance as United lost possession, but Will Fish did well to block. Suddenly Derby had an injection of energy in their play.
But United won a penalty in the 60th minute. Emeran was played in over the top down the right by Hannibal Mejbri and the Derby defender just shoved him in the back to topple him over.
Hannibal stepped up and put it low into the right corner just out of the grasp of the keeper’s finger tips.
Emeran doubled the lead in the in the 70th minute after Savage found Fernandez barrelling down the left and the Spaniard squared for Emeran to fire into the top right corner.
Emeran looked for another three minutes later as he wrestled possession away from the Derby defender and struck low but the keeper saved with his feet.
Savage capped a superb performance in the 78th minute with Fernandez playing provider again. Shoretire played Fernandez down the wing and the full back crossed to Savage to head into the corner.
Charlie Wellens almost got onto the score sheet late on when he was found in acres of space but he couldn’t beat the keeper with two attempts.
United did make it five moments later though, as Hannibal threaded it through the eye of the needle to pick out Shoretire running in behind, who finished into the bottom left corner.
Derby completely fell apart in the dying stages and United were getting in behind at will.
Manni Norkett thought he had bagged his first u23s goal as Shoretire squared to him for an open net tap in but the youngster was too keen and had strayed offside.
Derby pulled back a late consolation in injury time as Aghatise got in behind Wellens and hit the post before Bartosz Cybulski tapped in the rebound.
The victory brings United up the table into fourth place but still 10 points behind the leading Manchester City.
After his man of the match performance, Savage said despite the five he “still thinks we can get more goals.” A sign of the mentality to constantly improve that is instilled in Neil Wood’s side.
United: Mastny, Wellens, Fish, Hardley, Fernandez, Savage (Oyedele 87), Iqbal, Shoretire, Mejbri, Emeran (Stanley 77), Mellor (Norkett 84)
Unused subs: Vitek, Aljofree
Our player ratings for the match can be seen here.