Joshua King marked his return to United’s Reserves with a superbly crafted winner; cracking home the only goal in the first match of Warren Joyce’s sole management.
The Norwegian capped a fine, flowing move shortly before half-time, giving United victory despite an impressive show of resistance from Trotters goalkeeper Jay Lynch.
On an encouraging evening for the Reds, John O’Shea also completed an hour on his return from a calf injury, while first team squad members Wes Brown, Gabriel Obertan, Fabio and Bebe all garnered valuable playing time – though the Portuguese winger did limp off after a heavy challenge midway through the second period.
Bebe had previously operated in a front two alongside Obertan, which became a front three with the Frenchman and King as United dominated the match. Obertan drew a sharp low save from Lynch inside four minutes and, although Adam Blakeman soon scuffed wide for the visitors, the tone had been set for a busy evening for the Trotters stopper.
Although Obertan, King and Bebe all fired off-target after good approach play – Bebe in particular showed some sublime touches to round Lynch before firing over a gaping goal – the deadlock was finally broken on 43 minutes.
Corry Evans spread a superb ball wide to the marauding Joe Dudgeon, who quickly squared a pull-back for King. The young Norwegian took a touch and superbly slashed a finish through the legs of defender Tom Eckersley and inside the far post.
Suitably buoyed, United’s lead was almost doubled in the next attack. Fabio took up possession inside the centre circle and bypassed two challenges with supreme ease, but his bending finish lacked sufficient curl to fall the right side of Lynch’s post.
The interval only temporarily stemmed the hosts’ dominance. Oliver Norwood’s sublime scooped pass released Fabio, but the Brazilian’s shot was saved at point-blank range by Lynch, who then made quickfire parries to repel Obertan’s shot and a header from Brown.
Lynch trumped that quickfire pair of saves with a superb double stop to keep out Bebe’s swerving effort and Fabio’s close-range rebound, as frustration began to creep into United’s game.