Manchester United’s Under-19s finished the UEFA Youth League group stage by recording a superb 2-1 comeback win over Valencia in Spain.
Jordi opened the scoring for the home side, but Nishan Burkart soon equalised before Aidan Barlow netted the eventual winner just before half-time.
The match was something of a free pass for the Reds, with qualification as group winners ahead of Juventus already secured, but it was quickly evident that Nicky Butt’s team were clearly not in Spain for the sunshine.
Our in-form lads almost opened the scoring in just the third minute at the conclusion of an excellent counter attack, which began with Barlow playing a lovely ball over the top for Tahith Chong to chase. The Dutchman cut inside from the left past two markers and slotted a short pass out wide to the advancing Burkart, whose shot was well saved by the Valencia goalkeeper Emilio.
There was a worrying moment soon after when the increasingly-powerful Chong was bundled into the air on the edge of the hosts’ penalty area, prompting the referee to brandish a yellow card to Guillem as a member of the medical team rushed onto the field. Thankfully, our no.11 was able to play on and the subsequent free-kick resulted in Dion McGhee testing the goalkeeper.
U19s: Valencia 1 United 2 Gallery
The standout images from our UEFA Youth League win in Spain.
United responded well and began to play the ball around with more confidence, often trying to attack up the flanks and utilise the natural pace in the side. A penalty appeal was notably turned down after Chong was fouled once again, and Barlow saw a low shot from 12 yards blocked.
On the half-hour mark, a goal-line clearance was required to prevent Guillem’s header from going in and Pablo Jimenez fired a shot out of play shortly afterwards as the game’s momentum continued to shift.
Parity was restored on 36 minutes in a quality fashion, as captain Angel Gomes hit a beautiful pass for Chong to meet inside the box. The latter’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper, but Burkart showed good awareness to meet the rebound and strike a low shot into the net off the left-hand post.
Then, just before the break, United took the lead thanks to a lovely moment of individual skill from Barlow, who executed the simplest of finishes after finding himself one-on-one from eight yards.
The second half began with more goalmouth drama as a shot from Pablo Himenez was miraculously tipped onto the crossbar by United goalkeeper Fojticek, who showed tremendous agility to make the save - so much so that the Spanish supporters could hardly believe their team had not equalised.
Valencia boss Miguel Angel Ferrer threw caution to the wind by making three of his four substitutions with 57 minutes on the clock, before making his final change shortly afterwards.
Butt had in contrast appeared content to let his young side continue while the lead remained in place, however an apparent shoulder injury for Barlow forced the goalscorer to be replaced by Mark Helm. Harvey Neville, Lukasz Bejger, Shoretire and Oliver Denham all joined the action soon after as the United manager utilised the squad, offering vital European experience for some younger players.
A third goal for United almost arrived late on following a superb one-two between Chong and Ramazani, which resulted in Helm hitting a deflected shot that Emilio only just managed to save. The Reds went on to consolidate an admirable 2-1 win in Spain.
Valencia: Emilo, Pascu, Cortijo, Inaki, Guillem, Poveda (Bono 70), Fran Perez (Xavi 57), Esquerdo, Jordi (Nacho Munoz 81), Carlos Perez (Martin 57), Pablo Jiminez (Chiri 57).
Subs not used: Tarazona, Nacho Ferrer.
Booked: Guillem, Pascu, Esquerdo
United: Fojticek, McGhee, Devine (Denham 76), Tanner (Bejger 71), Ramazani, Ercolani (Neville 71), O'Connor, Burkart (Shoretire 75), Gomes, Barlow (Helm 66), Chong.
Subs not used: Carney, Fish.
PLAYERS' REACTION ON TWITTER
2-1 win to finish the group unbeaten. Great result! Also a massive shout out to all the debutants and 14 yr old Shola making his debut 🙌🏽❤️ @ManUtd— Santi Gomes (@agomes_47) December 12, 2018