Manchester United’s youngsters sit proudly at the summit of the Premier League Under-18 North table, following a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Stoke City at Clayton Wood.
There was plenty of cloud cover above Stoke City’s Clayton Wood training centre and a brief flurry of snow ahead of this Premier League Under-18 North fixture, but the playing surface was in excellent condition despite the harsh weather that has recently been sweeping the country.
Snow was still in the air as the game commenced following a well-observed minute’s silence in memory of former West Bromwich Albion striker Cyrille Regis, who passed away earlier this week.
United were quickly into their stride and looked particularly threatening down the wings with Dutch duo Tahith Chong and Millen Baars raiding at every opportunity.
Nishan Burkart almost gave United the lead with a cheeky lofted shot, in the 18th minute, when he spotted keeper Mitchell Allen off his line. Dylan Levitt tried his luck, a few minutes later, with a long distance strike that wasn’t far away from finding the target. Then, in the 33rd minute, United opened the scoring when Burkart’s beautifully threaded pass found Baars who finished the move with an angled drive past Allen.
United were starting to dominate the contest, but it wasn’t until seconds before the break that Burkart doubled the advantage with a left-footed finish after being picked out beautifully by Aidan Barlow.
United rallied and tried to hit back after Stoke’s goal and, with an ounce of luck, both Chong and Baars could have restored the two-goal advantage.
Coach Kieran McKenna rang the changes in the second half utilising his maximum allowance of three substitutes and it proved to be a masterstroke.
Two of his replacements, Largie Ramazani and Mason Greenwood found the net in the closing stages to rubber-stamp an excellent day for the team and even Stoke’s late penalty, scored by Szereto after a foul by Max Dunne, couldn’t dilute the celebrations.
With five minutes left, Ramazani crashed home a first-time effort when Ethan Laird's cross went all the way through to him and Greenwood's goal came when the 16-year-old was left in the clear when presented with the ball from a Allen goal-kick to stroke home with his left foot.
Under-18 Premier League | Clayton Wood | Scorers: Szereto 50, 90 (pen); Baars 33, Burkart 45, Ramazani 85, Greenwood 88
United: Fojticek; Laird, Dunne, O’Connor, Tanner; Garner; Chong, Levitt (Puigmal 84), Barlow, Baars (Ramazani 77); Burkart (Greenwood 70). Subs not used: Thompson, Bernard.