Under-18s: United 3 Derby 3
Under-18 Premier League North | Aon Training Complex | Scorers: Greenwood (2), Williams; Matthews, Whittaker (2)
An injury-time Derby County equaliser denied Manchester United's Under-18s victory in the opening league game of the season, at the Aon Training Complex.
The hosts looked to be heading for all three points in Neil Ryan's first game in charge, thanks to a Mason Greenwood brace and a Brandon Williams strike, before a late penalty ensured the game finished 3-3.
United started well in the opening exchanges and controlled much of the play without creating many chances.
However, Greenwood, who was part of the senior squad's pre-season tour of the USA, was soon causing chaos in the Derby defence. Anthony Elanga’s high press resulted in the ball falling to Greenwood and the United striker drew a smart save from Derby goalkeeper Sam French, who did well to narrow the angle.
However, he was left rooted to the spot soon after as Greenwood broke the deadlock. The United man collected the ball from deep, drove at the Derby backline and, after a few neat step-overs, launched a fierce shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
United were well on top at this stage and created a number of half-chances, the best of which was Dylan Levitt’s curling effort from outside the area, that was headed clear by an opposition defender.
When the next goal did come, it was the result of a rare Derby attack. An inch-perfect cross from the left-hand side found an eagerly-waiting Matthews and the smallest player on the pitch nodded the ball in to bring Derby back on level terms.
United nearly responded immediately and, just a few seconds after kick-off, Greenwood hit the post. From an acute angle, he managed to fire the ball goalwards and was unlucky to see it rebound off the woodwork.
The Reds could have gone in ahead at half-time after being awarded a penalty just seconds before the whistle. Dion McGhee was taken down on the corner of the box and the referee rightly pointed for a spot-kick.
However, Greenwood’s low effort was saved by Rams stopper French, who held onto the ball and drew the first half to a close.
United started fantastically after the interval and forced French into making two early saves - the first from Greenwood’s side-footed effort and the second after a dipping shot from Largie Ramazani.
The home side made their dominance pay minutes later as Williams scored the Reds’ second of the game. The defender picked up the ball at the edge of the area and, after bypassing two Derby defenders, squeezed a well-placed strike into the away goal.
Again, the Midlands side responded quickly and Morgan Whittaker’s penalty tied up the game within just a few minutes. Jacob Carney mis-controlled a backpass from Di’Shon Bernard and in trying to retrieve the ball subsequently brought down Derby’s Jack Stretton inside the box
United reacted well to the setback and Greenwood continued to cause havoc in the Rams defence, winning a corner for the Reds after Aliou Traore’s dribble and cross set him up in the area.
From the resultant set-piece, United nearly found the back of the net again, but Bernard’s header was agonisingly cleared off the line.
United boss Ryan introduced Charlie McCann and Ben Hockenhull for McGhee and Arnau Puigmal in the second half and, after somewhat fortuitously surviving Stretton’s effort which hit the post, the Reds scored a third 11 minutes from time.
Ramazani’s superb ball from deep played in Greenwood, who emphatically bagged his second of the game and looked to have secured all three points for the home side. The striker coolly slotted away the chance with his left foot on a day when he ran the opposition defence ragged.
United could have been out of sight had had McCann, Ramazani or Greenwood converted late chances, and the Reds were ultimately made to pay as County found an injury-time winner.
A mis-timed tackle from Hockenhull presented the visitors with a late spot-kick, the third of the game, which Whittaker slotted in to ensure both sides shared the points.
United: Carney; Puigmal (Hockenhull 75), Laird, Bernard, Williams; McGhee (McCann 64), Traore, Levitt; Elanga, Greenwood, Ramazani. Subs not used: Thompson, Neville, Helm.