Charlie McNeill celebrates.

Under-18s end the year on a high

Thursday 17 December 2020 13:54

Manchester United’s Under-18s brought down the curtain on their 2020 with a fine 4-0 win over a hard-working Leeds United side at the Aon Training Complex on Thursday.

The victory, achieved with two goals from Charlie McNeill and one each for Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal, saw Neil Ryan’s team stretch our lead at the top of the Premier League Under-18 North table to six points.

It was also our eighth straight win at this level and 10th in 11 games since the start of the campaign. All-in-all, it's been a terrific first half of the season for the youngsters, who can go off on their winter break happy and totally satisfied with their performances so far.

This was the last action for the Reds’ youngsters before they disperse for Christmas and they could hardly have had a better day for the final match of 2020. Beautifully clear skies above with a few distant clouds and bright sunshine casting long shadows across the meticulously manicured pitch.

McNeill's 'Panenka' penalty Video

McNeill's 'Panenka' penalty

Our Under-18s took the lead early on against Leeds, with this goal...

It was a welcome back to Leeds United in the top level of Academy football and there were sufficient no-nonsense challenges from both sides which bore all the hallmarks of a typical United versus Leeds clash.

That is not to say that the game was unfolding as an over-aggressive contest, quite the opposite, but it was a foul, Leeds’ Joe Snowdon on McNeill in the penalty area, that led to United opening the scoring in the seventh minute. Referee Graeme Kearney was just yards away and instantly pointed to the spot from where McNeill himself made sure the Reds gained maximum benefit from the award with a cheeky 'Panenka' effort.

Grabbing that early lead served United well as the game developed into well-balanced match with good scoring chances being produced at both ends. The visitors endured a remarkable last 10 minutes of the first half when they accumulated at least six opportunities to get back on terms but it just wouldn’t happen for them and, in the second minute of added time, United swept to the other end where McNeill scored his second of the game, with aplomb from the most acute of angles, with keeper Harry Christy stranded.

United’s Alejandro Garnacho was certainly cursing his luck during the first few minutes after the break when he looked certain to stretch United’s lead but each time fortune favoured the visitors. However, it wasn’t long before United’s third goal came along with Savage the scorer, in the 64th minute, with a close-range tap-in, following fine approach play by Garnacho and Joe Hugill.

Guadagno made two miraculous point-blank saves to deny Leeds’ Joe Littlewood and Max Dean that were so unbelievable that Dean went over to congratulate the home keeper with a pat on the back.

The honour of being United’s Under-18’s final goalscorer of 2020 fell to Whalley Range-born Iqbal, who bagged the Reds’ fourth goal, eight minutes from time, after latching onto an incisive through ball by defender Rhys Bennett.

Added time arrived and Leeds’ miserable luck in front of goal was compounded when striker Dean thumped a shot against Guadagno’s crossbar.

Charlie Savage celebrates his strike against Leeds.

United: Guadagno; Hughes, Bennett, Svidersky, Pye (Murray 77); Iqbal, Savage (Mainoo 83); Wellens, McNeill, Garnacho; Hugill (Emeran 68).

Substitute not used: Vitek.

Scorers: McNeill 7 (pen), 45+1, Savage 64, Iqbal 82.