Under-18s secure deserved win at Everton
Manchester United's Under-18s earned three points with a late penalty by Dylan Levitt enough to overcome Everton at Finch Farm.
The Reds welcomed back several players who represented the Under-23s in last Friday's game against Southampton for a tough test against the table-topping Merseysiders, following the loss to Middlesbrough at the weekend.
It was always expected to be a battle with the Blues and so it proved, but Levitt kept his composure to score from the spot in the closing stages after Neil Ryan's side had been frustrated by the woodwork on three occasions.
It was no more than United deserved after dominating the second half against a Toffees side that was forced to play almost two-thirds of the game with only 10 players after defender Josh Hosie was sent off for two yellow-card offences - fouls on Largie Ramazani and Brandon Williams as they made tracks down the Reds' left-hand side.
Everton’s Academy and training centre near Halewood is a splendid facility but, on a February evening during a cold snap, it can feel a trifle chilly with the wind gusting across both the major waterways of the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal.
However, the conditions didn’t prevent both teams from starting this game at an impressive pace. It would have been virtually impossible to have put a credit card between them during the opening stages as the game swung relentlessly from one end of the field to the other. United goalkeeper James Thompson was once again in fine form, getting in front of everything the league leaders could throw at him. While, at the other end United, went agonisingly close to making the breakthrough twice in the space of two minutes.
Einar Iversen cannoned an attempted clearance against his own bar and Aliou Traore was just as close when a slick move culminated in Anthony Elanga knocking the ball into his path but the Frenchman's effort took a deflection and looped up against the woodwork.
Mason Greenwood, back in the fold following his outing with the Under-23s last week, started quietly but then twice, in quick succession, he was within an ace of finding a route through the Toffees’ defence.
The second half was pretty much one-way traffic with United probing and searching for an opening against a resilient rearguard. A rare break enabled Ellis Simms to force a good stop out of United keeper James Thompson but the pressure continued to mount at the other end.
An electrifying run by Elanga teed up Mason Greenwood for a glorious chance but, again, the woodwork came to the Toffees' rescue as the top scorer's finish from the edge of the six-yard box hit the bar.Five minutes into the second half, United looked certain to open the scoring after Greenwood slalomed his way into the Everton area before despatching the ball across the face of the goal. Defenders Di'Shon Bernard and Teden Mengi had joined the attack and both had attempts on goal blocked close to the line. Although Ellis Simms forced a good stop out of Thompson on a rare break, on the hour, United went even closer to finding the net when Ramazani skied the ball over the bar after taking a fine ball from skipper Williams.
As rain poured from the sky, the Reds kept pressing forward looking for the all-important opening but chances continued to come and go. Levitt, Elanga and Traore were all unlucky as United piled on the pressure against Everton’s 10 men and, just when it seemed that the deadlock would remain, Greenwood was floored inside the box by Michael Collins and Levitt calmly converted the penalty to secure a narrow but richly deserved victory.
Everton remain top of the Under-18 Premier League North, with United in fourth spot, but the Reds are only two points adrift with a game in hand.
United: Thompson; Puigmal (Galbraith 38), Mengi, Bernard, B. Williams; Garner, Levitt (McGhee 90+5), Traore; Elanga, Greenwood, Ramazani (McCann 90).
Substitutes not used: Carney, Devine.
Scorer: Levitt 89 (pen).
It's another big game for the Under-18s in the league as Liverpool provide the opposition at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday, with kick-off at 11:00 GMT.Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.