Academy Weekly: A good Italian job

Thursday 04 November 2021 10:51

Manchester United’s Under-19s are within touching distance of the UEFA Youth League knockout rounds after an away victory at Atalanta on Tuesday.

The Reds have now amassed nine points from four group stage fixtures, and sit second in Group F, behind Villarreal by a point.

Manager Neil Wood believed the win showed the “good character” of the United team but hoped to kill games off better in future.

“We controlled the game at the start and we got two goals up,” Wood told club media.

“We had a little ten minute patch where we were doing the wrong things, giving the ball away; it led to the penalty and led to them getting a little glimpse back into the game, which was disappointing.

“I was hoping at 2-0 that we could go on and get the third and really put the game to bed, it's always tight when it's 2-1, and we knew they played a direct style, so as the game went on, and it was a little bit nervy, we knew they'd start putting balls into the box.

U19s highlights: Atalanta 1 United 2 Video

U19s highlights: Atalanta 1 United 2

See how United overcame Atalanta 2-1 in the UEFA Youth League with goals from Shoretire and Elanga...

“I thought Teden [Mengi] and Rhys [Bennett] defended excellent. They were outstanding all game, [both] with the ball and without the ball defending.

“I’m not blown away by the performance, but we saw the game out and I think the win is a good win.”

Shola Shoretire put United ahead in Bergamo before Anthony Elanga scored from a left-wing free-kick. See more details on the match below.

Also this week at the Academy, United Under-18s continued a trend of late drama, rescuing a point at Derby with two second half goals, and two more young Reds got important experience in the Football League.


Pro Experience Programme continues

Launched recently was the Academy's innovative new programme in which young United players spend time training with EFL clubs. Distinct from a formal loan move, several players in the U17-U23 age groups will spend a time training in a senior football environment. After two enjoyed a stint with Darren Moore's Sheffield Wednesday squad, a further two headed to Forest Green Rovers, who are top of League Two. Upon their return, they presented their experiences to coaches in order to cement the learning process. Nick Cox said "the opportunity enables players to learn new behaviours and witness first-hand the standards of a first-team environment."

Victory in Italy

Shoretire put United ahead after eight minutes in Bergamo, curling his right-footed shot into the bottom right corner. Elanga and Fernandez had combined on the left-wing, where they were busy and energetic all day, to send a cross in for Omari Forson. He held the ball up well and laid it off perfectly for Shoretire to strike first time.

Before the half-hour mark arrived, Elanga had made it two, scoring direct from a free-kick. It was more of an in-swinging cross than a shot, and Charlie McNeill almost got a touch on it, but it was directed so perfectly as to nestle in the bottom right corner by itself.

Atalanta got back into the game before half-time after a Rhys Bennett tackle in the box was deemed a foul. He was sure he'd got the ball first and replays were inconclusive. Guillame Renault emphatically converted from the spot.

United could have wrapped the game up on a couple of occasions. Bennett was unfortunate to hit the bar with a header and Shoretire and Elanga both saw shots saved when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

"It was good to get a goal today against a good, strong side," Shoretire said, "and it was good to get it early on as well to settle us down a bit."

"I thought it was good," added Bennett. "We showed good character. Obviously travelling away from home is tough and we had to weather the storm for the last 20-25 minutes but, like I said, I thought we showed very good character and we got the result that we came here to get."

Contrasting drama in Saturday matches

The Under-23s were left gutted after conceding a 92nd-minute goal at Tottenham Hotspur. Dilan Markanday’s strike was the only goal of the game but despite the tight scoreline, there had been plenty of goalmouth excitement throughout.

United XI: Kovar, Jurado, Mengi, Hardley, Wellens, Svidersky, Hansen (Mainoo 84), Amad, Shoretire, Elanga, Hugill (McNeill 64).

Wood: A hard one to take Video

Wood: A hard one to take

Neil Wood discusses the late drama after our U23s were edged out in injury time against Tottenham...

Further north in Derbyshire, the Under-18s enjoyed the opposite kind of drama. United's list of chances created was long and varied, but the Reds trailed at the break.

Derby County goalkeeper Harvey Randale thwarted United on several occasions in the second half, but it was mainly his defenders doing the job in the first. Randale touched a Garnacho free-kick over the bar, Murray watched a shot narrowly whizz wide of the top corner, Mather was tackled just as he pulled the trigger to shoot and he and Forson saw close-range shots blocked in quick succession. Garnacho had a shot saved low down and Manni Norkett created a great chance when he flashed a ball across goal, only for no teammate to be on hand to tap home.

Derby had taken a 10th-minute lead through Zion Dixon. Rhys Bennett had done well to block the initial attempt but Dixon lapped up the loose ball.

It was he who doubled Derby's lead shortly after the restart, too, this time capitalising as United conceded possession while playing out from the back.

United persisted and eventually found two goals to bring things back level, but only after another string of saved and blocked shots, including one off goalkeeper Randale's face and another that struck the post. Norkett scored the first, scoring a 77th-minute penalty that he'd won himself after running onto a good ball from Garnacho.

It was the Spanish winger who set up the equaliser five minutes later as well with a good solo run topped off by a light roll into the path of Ethan Ennis who deftly finished for his first Under-18s goal.

Garnacho was sent off late on, picking up a second booking after he was pulled back and retaliated in frustration.

United could have found a winner, Willy Kambwala watching a header cleared off the line, and were left ruing missed chances despite the rescued point.

United XI: Vitek, Ogunneye, Bennett, Fredricson, Murray, Oyedele (Nolan), Forson (Kambwala), Mather, Ennis, Garnacho, Norkett

U18s highlights: Derby 2 United 2 Video

U18s highlights: Derby 2 United 2

Watch all the goals and key moments as our U18s fight back from two goals down to claim a point against the Rams...

Swedish FA appeal UEFA decision

The Swedish Football Federation is appealing UEFA's decision to stop their investigation into alleged racial abuse of Manchester United forward Anthony Elanga during a recent Under-21 international match.

Elanga spoke to match officials about the conduct of an opposition player when Sweden faced Italy last month, and the Swedish Football Federation notified UEFA about the incident. However, UEFA have since opted not to bring the case to their disciplinary committee.

On Monday, the Swedish Football Federation released a statement about UEFA's decision, in which Elanga commented on the handling of the incident.

"I am, of course, very disappointed," the United player said.

"I know what I heard and what happened. I hope that the appeal can lead to something. I’m thankful for the support I have received from my team-mates and the Swedish Football Federation."

In the statement, Tobias Tibell, chief lawyer of the Swedish Football Federation, said they have Elanga's back and will not rest on the matter. Manchester United are also disappointed with UEFA's decision and will give our full support to Anthony in this matter.


League fixtures

The Under-23s take on Leeds United at midday on Saturday. Due to the first team fixture against Manchester City (which kicks off at 12:30 GMT), we'll be unable to show this on MUTV. Highlights and reaction will be available on and our Official App later in the day.

Travis Binnion's Under-18s side travel to Nottingham Forest. That game kicks off at 12:30 GMT and so also won't be shown live.