Manchester United's bid to win the Dallas Cup - a prestigious tournament for Under-19 teams - began in earnest on Sunday evening in Texas, courtesy of a second-half brace from substitute James Wilson.
The young striker netted in the 65th minute and again in injury time, by which time the Reds' opponents Club America had been harshly reduced to ten men. United were earlier grateful to goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini for preserving parity at 0-0 with a brilliant penalty save on the brink of half-time.
The venue for this victory was the vast Cotton Bowl Stadium, set against the imposing backdrop of the downtown Dallas skyline. And although the sparse crowd of no more than 5,000 was scattered around the 92,100-capacity arena, United fans from the local ‘Dallas Reds’ group were vociferous throughout as their team turned in an impressive and spirited performance.
Warren Joyce’s side dominated the game from the opening minutes and posed problems to Club America with some slick interplay, crisp passing and good movement off the ball. With Charni Ekangamene, James Weir, Mats Daehli and Ben Pearson bossing the midfield, their link-up play with Adnan Januzaj and Jack Barmby was a joy to watch. The Reds carved open the Mexican defence several times in the first half and but for some profligate finishing would have gone into the interval with a good lead.
Pearson broke down the right-hand side and after taking the ball close to the by-line, cut back a perfect centre which Januzaj headed wide of the goal. Terrific work down United’s left wing between Luke Hendrie, Pearson and Daehli later put Barmby in behind the Mexican defence, only for the striker to shoot tamely at the goalkeeper.
The Reds were quick into the tackle, but sometimes too quick for the referee’s liking with Ekangamene receiving a yellow card for what looked like a legitimate challenge. Pearson was also booked in similar circumstances but Hendrie’s caution, for a foul on Club America striker Jonathan Sanchez, looked more like a correct decision.