After a largely forgettable first half, United’s Under-18s turned on the style in the second period to earn a hard-fought 2-1 win over Bolton.
Goals from Charni Ekangamene and Jack Barmby secured the points, although there was a late scare when Bolton found the net with two minutes to play.
Ekangamene’s strike on 42 minutes, a superb long-range effort that arrowed into the bottom corner, lit up an otherwise dull first 45 minutes that was characterised by sloppy passing and poor ball retention.
After the break, though, Paul McGuinness’s young side looked an entirely different outfit. Gyliano Van Velzen forced a top stop from the Bolton goalkeeper before Barmby doubled United’s lead when he capitalised on a bad defensive error.
The young forward then squandered a golden opportunity to grab another following a scrappy goalmouth scramble, but his second-half strike – his seventh goal for the U18s this term – ultimately proved decisive after Bolton pulled one back on the break on 88 minutes.
The victory, which required equal parts grit and guile, was the Reds’ fourth of the season, although celebrations were tempered somewhat by a nasty looking injury to midfielder Joe Rothwell.
United: Jacob; Love, Blackett, Dalley, McCullough; Ekangamene, Daehli (Byrne 46), Rudge (Rothwell 46 (Pearson 78), Van Velzen; Januzaj Barmby