Manchester United’s u21s were given the rare occasion on Friday night of playing at Old Trafford, as they hosted rivals Leeds United.
The special evening got off to a bad start for United, as Leeds took the lead in the 8th minute. Some quick passing led to Sean McGurk running through an open gap left in the United backline. McGurk took full advantage as he slotted past Elyh Harrison.
Just three minutes later, Leeds were awarded a penalty when Luca Thomas jinked between Sonny Aljofree and Toby Collyer, taking a light trip from the latter to go down.
It was, however, a poor effort and was easily denied by Elyh Harrison who got down quick to save.
After the penalty, United kicked into gear, and Isak Hansen-Aaroen slipped Mateo Mejia into the box who cut back to Omari Forson, only for him to be denied by a goal line clearance.
Shortly afterwards, Mejia played provider again with a cross to Joe Hugill at back the post. Unfortunately, a slight tip from the defender put the striker off the header.
A fantastic diagonal ball then came from Teden Mengi deep into left corner, eventually leading to a cross from Marc Jurado, but it was taken off Hugill’s foot and sent out for corner.
Approaching the half hour mark, the ball fell to Hansen-Aaroen outside the box and he worked his way in. The resulting shot was blocked, taking the steam off it as it rolled harmlessly to the keeper.
Nearing half time and it was another crucial Leeds block, this time on Habeeb Ogunneye who got forward to get on the end of Jurado’s measured cross.
It went into the break with United trailing to Leeds 0-1 despite all the pressure going one way following the opening goal.
The second half began in the same fashion with Hansen-Aaroen creating an early chance for Hannibal Mejbri, who couldn’t get his effort on target.
Hansen-Aaroen then showed how his change of pace as he knocked it past the fullback andsprinted to collect in the box, before cutting back to Dan Gore. The half-time substitute couldn’t get his boot around it enough to redirect it on goal.
After the slew of misses, Leeds hit on the counter down the right, and with United’s backline scrambling left Ogunneye on his own on the left side to mark two players, allowing for an easy switch of play and subsequent finish from Connor Douglas.
United thought they’d pulled one back in the 59th minute when Dan Gore’s bullet effort from 25 yards out crashed off the woodwork.
A minute after that it was Mengi’s turn to try from long range with a bending effort just wide of the right post.
Jurado then came down the left and centred for Hannibal, but the midfielder’s effort was straight at the keeper and palmed out.
The Norwegian, Hansen-Aaroen, was the star of the show and he danced down the left again before Cruyff turning in the box to open space and find Gore who lashed it over the bar.
In the 75th minute, a perfect first touch from Hansen-Aaroen sent him past two Leeds defenders to play it across the goal, but a slight touch on the ball wrong-footed Hugill, who waiting at the back post.
Charlie McNeill entered from the bench and after a couple of missed chances in quick succession, he pulled one back early in injury time. An indirect free kick in the Leeds box for the keeper holding onto the ball for too long was rolled by Jurado to McNeill who smashed it into the wall and deflected into the goal.
Sonny Aljofree was then sent off for a second yellow card when he handled the ball attempting to bring a long ball under control while under pressure from a Leeds attacker in a clear offside position.
United fashioned another few chances in the dying moments, but ultimately couldn’t get past the formidable blocks from the Leeds defenders, despite having 19 attempts on the night.
The full-time whistle came with the three points going to Leeds – a disappointing result after United controlled the match for 80 minutes. Ultimately, the inability to finish chances was the key factor in the end.
United: Harrison, Ogunneye (Oyedele 62), Aljofree, Mengi, Jurado, Collyer, Hannibal, Forson (Gore 46), Hansen-Aarøen (McNeill 77), Mejia (Williams 70), Hugill
Unused subs: Carney