Under-18s: Reds put eight past Boro
Manchester United’s Premier League U18 North season finished with an overwhelming 8-1 victory over Middlesbrough at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday afternoon.
Dillon Hoogewerf and Charlie McNeill both scored hat-tricks, with Zidane Iqbal and Alejandro Garnacho also getting their names on the scoresheet.
It could well be a title-winning performance but that remains to be seen, as neighbours Manchester City, two points adrift of Neil Ryan’s lads, have one further game to play and that is at Burnley on Wednesday.
Victory for the Blues will see them installed as champions, but any other result would hand the laurels to United and present them with a place in the national final.
The game was preceded by a moment’s silence for Alan McLoughlin, the Manchester-born former Republic of Ireland international (42 caps), who began his career with United and tragically passed away this week, aged just 54.
Only too aware of the task that lay ahead, United’s youngsters began the game with the bit between their teeth. It appeared that Boro started the game content to just sit back and allow United to take the initiative.
Remarkably, however, Boro could quite easily have taken the lead as early as the sixth minute when only a great save from United’s Radek Vitek prevented Pharrell Willis’s shot from finding the net.
That came at the end of the visitors’ first attack and from that point on the bulk of the action was going to be in their territory.
United swarmed all over the lads from Teesside and it came as no surprise at all when, in the 12th minute, another goal-fest was launched. Alvaro Fernandez’s raking pass found Isak Hansen, who quickly tapped the ball on for Iqbal to do the necessary.
United continued to hold the upper hand but it was more than twenty-minutes before the Middlesbrough defences were again breached when Charlie Wellens sent over a perfect cross for Hoogewerf, perhaps the shortest player on the field, to leap and head home the second goal.
Seven minutes later and United were 3-0 to the good when Hoogewerf struck from close range after receiving the ball from Iqbal.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, the prolific McNeill took advantage of a mix-up in the Boro defence to claim his 22nd league goal of the campaign.
Four-nil up at half-time, United had surely sealed the points and achieved what they had set out to do, but there wasn’t to be any taking it easy, for two minutes after the restart Hoogewerf completed his hat-trick with a tight-angled shot past Max Metcalfe in the Boro goal.
Middlesbrough had made a marked improvement since the break and, in the 52nd minute, Willis shot past Vitek to bag what was to be a consolation goal.
Fifteen minutes later and McNeill was on target again, this time from the penalty-spot, after Boro substitute Andrew Nelson felled him in the area.
And, in the 79th minute, McNeill joined Hoogewerf as trio-scorer, with a low shot past Metcalf after Garnacho had provided the set-up.
United rounded off their biggest win of the season six minutes from the end, when Garnacho’s goal raised the total to eight.
United: Vitek; Wellens (Oyedele 58), Bennett, Svidersky, Fernandes (Jackson 71); Iqbal, Savage; Forson, Hansen (Garnacho 59), Hoogewerf; McNeill.
Substitutes not used: Mee, Murray.
Goals: Iqbal 12, Hoogewerf 32, 39, 47, McNeill 45, 66 pen, 79, Garnacho 84.