Under-18s: Manchester United 4 Arsenal 3
In what must be one of the most remarkable games ever played at United’s legendary Cliff training ground in Salford, United’s Under-18s recovered from trailing by three clear goals at the break to claim an incredible victory over Arsenal in the dying embers of the contest.
Arsenal were almost untouchable during an impressive first half for the North London club, but that was totally eclipsed after the break as United staged a truly remarkable fightback, scoring four goals without reply including two Angel Gomes penalties.
In a nutshell, this was a truly spectacular and distinct ‘game of two halves!’ Playing at the spiritual home of the club's junior players more often while work on the pitches at the Aon Training Complex is ongoing is clearly an experience to enjoy and cherish for the youngsters.
This was the opening game in the new Under-18 Premier League Cup and United went into this group fixture hoping to build on the league victories over Stoke City and Derby County in recent weeks, but that plan was soon put to the test as the Gunners raced into a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes.
Buyako Saka grabbed the first, in the fifth minute, with a good finish after cutting in from the right and, seven minutes later, Emile Smith-Rowe took advantage of defensive lapse to find the net from inside the area.
United were battling hard to stem the tide and, for a while, it appeared that a goal to put us back in the game wasn’t too far away. At the same time, Arsenal were looking very slick and confident and were regularly threatening United’s goal and, in the 36th minute, they claimed their third goal through James Olayinka.
Dylan Levitt replaced the injured Aidan Barlow at the interval and the young Welsh midfield player made an almost instant impact when he crossed from the left, three minutes into the second half, for Nishan Burkart to score at the near post.
That early goal after the restart was just the boost United needed and it provided the springboard for a noticeable transformation in the Reds' performance and the game in general.
In the 68th minute, substitute D’Mani Bughail Mellor reduced the deficit to a single goal with a smart finish following an eye-catching United attack. Suddenly, the game had been turned on its head and United were looking more than capable of claiming some reward from a match which, at one point, had appeared completely out of reach.
Then, seven minutes from time, Bughail-Mellor was felled in the area and Gomes stepped forward to thump home the equaliser from the penalty spot.
But that wasn’t the end of the story as, with less than two minutes remaining on the clock, a similar sequence of events saw substitute Largie Ramazani fouled as he burst into the area and Gomes confidently repeated the process of six minutes earlier by sweeping the ball past keeper Joao Virginia.
This tie had to be seen to be believed because, at the break, United were nowhere to seen, but the second half belonged totally to the Reds and, in the end, Kieran McKenna's side were full value for the astounding victory.
United: Fojticek; Tanner, Dunne, O’Connor, B. Williams; Baars (Ramazani 62), Garner, Galbraith, Barlow (Levitt 46); Gomes; Burkart (Bughail-Mellor 62). Subs not used: Thompson, Laird.
Highlights on the amazing win will be shown on MUTV and MUTV.com this Sunday at 19:00 BST.