Nathan Thomas follows the Reds' Reserves as well as the first-team, and watched the 3-1 win over City on Tuesday night for ManUtd.com...
As a regular watching United’s Reserves, last night was a strange experience. The team that appeared through the tunnel at Ewen Fields didn’t feature the usual crop of Joe Dudgeon, Corry Evans and Oliver Norwood. Emerging instead were Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, Anderson, Darron Gibson and Rafael.
With six full internationals in United’s starting XI, it was more like a Premier League line-up than one facing City in the Manchester Senior Cup. Maybe the strength of United’s side, in front of a packed house at Hyde United’s stadium, had something to do with the fact that City’s Reserves are now named the 'Elite Development Squad', which quite frankly sounds like the back-up team to The Fantastic Four.
Joking apart, watching Reserves in last night’s Mancunian summer (rain) took on a different perspective; usually you look for sparkling young talent, whereas on Tuesday night the game had a more pre-season-style atmosphere. You’re monitoring how fit the players look ahead of the first game of the season.
Despite the wealth of talent on show, it was encouraging to see some of the young lads steal the show, rather than the established first-teamers. Three players caught my eye in particular: Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Magnus Eikrem.
Smalling might have reacted quicker for City’s goal, but I thought otherwise he put in a solid performance at the back, making a crucial block to keep the scores at 1-1 when goalkeeper Ben Amos was stranded. He also looked very confident in bringing the ball out of defence – the comparisons with Rio Ferdinand are inevitable.
Cleverley and captain Eikrem also looked very assured in midfield. Cleverley in particular shone for me, controlling the game through pinpoint passes and surging runs forward. He also capped his showing with a fine goal, but could in truth have had a few more.
A mention must also go to Anderson on his first outing in six months after returning from a cruciate knee ligament injury. He looked fit, lively and put in a typical lung-busting Ando-style display. He will surely be a terrific addition to the first-team when he makes his return.
Federico Macheda also started the game and capped a good showing with two well-taken