Manchester United’s u21s were in action for the first time in 2023 as they travelled to London to take on Fulham today.
A couple of corners for each side was the extent of the action in the opening 15 minutes as neither side could create any clear openings.
Kobbie Mainoo was forced off in the 17th minute after holding his leg for what looked like a muscle pull, being replaced by Isak Hansen-Aaroen.
A turnover at the halfway line by Fulham allowed Mateo Mejia to race down the right and strike towards the left corner which looked to be scuffed wide but fortunately for United Shola Shoretire was following in for the tap in to give United the lead.
In the 28th minute a clever short corner found Joe Hugill in the box but his one time shot on the turn was blocked.
Dan Gore passed down the heart of Fulham’s back line to find Hugill, who flicked the ball past the onrushing keeper, but there wasn’t enough power on it as the recovering defender cleared.
After some great linkup play between Hansen-Aaroen and Shoretire, Hardley was played down the left to drive low into the box for Hugill to stroke into the net and double United’s lead in the 34th minute.
Hansen-Aaroen and Shoretire were connecting again shortly after as Shoretire slipped the ball centrally to the Norwegian who danced into the box and smashed the ball into the side netting.
Hansen-Aaroen then slid the ball down the left channel for Hugill to run on to and cut inside onto his right foot to curl to the back post but the striker couldn’t put enough bend on the ball.
Just before the half, Rhys Bennett was knocked down while trying to shield the ball out for a goal kick but the ref didn’t give the foul, opening a huge chance for Fulham’s Ollie O’Neill from close range to side foot in but for a fantastic save from Radek Vitek to keep them out.
In the first minute of the second half, a full blooded late challenge from Gore was lucky not to put the midfielder into the ref’s book.
Another turnover of possession to Mejia gave the Spaniard a free shot from 20 yards out but he couldn’t keep his shot on target in his first appearance since August.
In the 72nd, Fulham pulled one back from a corner that was played deep and then swung back in low by Charlie Robinson and somehow rolled all the way into the net as the United players watched on.
Fulham almost equalised minutes later with another low cross that was blocked well this time by Bennett.
Late on, Charlie McNeill had his first chance having come from the bench with an effort from 20 yards that went tamely into the keeper’s arms.
Fulham were chasing the equaliser into injury time, crowding United’s box before Shoretire could clear and in doing so was taken out with a late challenge.
The final whistle came seconds later to earn United a much need three points that sees them move up the table and secure some space above the relegation zone.
United: Vitek, Jurado, Bennett, Bernard, Hardley, Iqbal, Gore, Mejia (Forson 68), Mainoo, Shoretire (Hansen-Aaroen 20), Hugill (McNeill 78)
Unused subs: Mastny, Kambwala