Manchester United’s Under-23s launched the Premier League International Cup campaign with a hard-fought point against Derby County at Loughborough University Stadium on Thursday evening.
Nishan Burkart put the Reds into the lead from close range inside 20 minutes after a great cross into the box by Angel Gomes, before Louie Sibley levelled the scores just after an hour with a looping cross that managed to find a way into the net.
Ricky Sbragia’s lads were the last of the four teams in Group F to commence their fixtures in the competition as the two teams took to the pitch on a chilly winter's evening, and it was the hosts that started the brighter of the two. However, whilst their early forays into United’s half failed to gain any reward they did ensure that Matej Kovar had no time to ease himself in to the game.
Despite the positive start by the Rams, it was United who hadn't been shy in demonstrating their attacking threat, that took the lead in the 18th minute. Gomes made his way into Derby's penalty area before releasing the ball to Burkart who managed to divert it over the line with a clever finish.
Before the break, United had an appeal for handball turned down by referee Matthew Dicicco, as Zachary Dearnley appeared to have a shot blocked inside the penalty area.
There was no let-up in the tempo of the game as the second half got underway with both sides pressing forward at every opportunity. But there had been very few openings until the 63rd minute when substitute Louie Sibley, who’d only just joined the action off the bench, delivered a cross into the area which managed to loop over the head of Kovar's and go in at the far post.
Sbragia freshened up his side with fifteen minutes remaining, sending on D’Mani Mellor and Josh Bohui for Burkart and Aidan Barlow. However, despite the players striving to find a winning goal, the points were ultimately shared.
On the balance of play, a draw was a fair result and gives the Reds a good chance of qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition with two home games against PSV Eindhoven and Paris Saint Germain to come.
Derby currently sit at the top the group while both United and PSG have a point apiece, which looks set to make the final two games of the group interesting.
United: Kovář; O’Connor, Poole, Williams R-S., Tanner; Gomes, Whelan, Hamilton; Barlow (Bohui 75), Burkart (Mellor 75), Dearnley.
Subs not used: Warren, Woolston, Ercolani, Buffonge.
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