Report: Under-18s fight back to draw with Brighton

Manchester United’s Under-18s achieved a highly commendable draw against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday lunchtime.

Ben Clark-Eden had given the visitors a lead in the second half with a header, before Shola Shoretire scored the Reds’ equalising goal with just less than 20 minutes remaining.  

United remained in second place in the Premier League Cup Group F, but results elsewhere determined that we are unable to make any further progress in the competition.

How our U18s equalised against BrightonVideo

Under-18s lead coach Neil Ryan named a much changed line-up to that which won last time out against League leaders, Manchester City. Just two players, Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri, remained from that successful trip across town to the Etihad campus.

Away from the Premier League Cup, the Seagulls are also having an impressive spell in the League’s Southern section. They are currently in third place behind West London’s big-two, Fulham and Chelsea.

And most United supporters will not need reminding of last season’s FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie at Leigh Sports Village, which ended in a 3-1 win for Brighton.
So Brighton arrived at Aon Training Complex with a glowing reputation and that pedigree was clear to see in the early stages, as a couple of rapid attacks brought United goalkeeper Ben Mee, one of several players making their Under-18 debuts, almost instantly into the action.

The early signs suggested that United’s young side would be required to dig deep but there was no need for concern. The Reds were quickly into their stride and it was the visitors who were required to defend in numbers. 

United went close to taking the lead in a matter of minutes and, should the ball have found the net, neither would have been credited to a player wearing red. 

Mejbri's tantalising ball into the Brighton area was headed on to the crossbar by full-back Luca Cocoracchio before his fellow defenders scrambled it away. 

And soon after it was it was James Furlong who almost turned the ball into his own net following a smart touch of overlapping from United’s Harvey Neville.

The balance of play levelled out as the match progressed and both sides were responsible for producing an open and attack-based contest.

However, the first half was marred when 16-year-old Spanish youngster Mateo Mejia, who moved to United from Real Zaragoza in the summer, suffered what appeared to serious injury to his right leg. 

All of United’s medical team, as well as ambulance paramedics, attended to him for almost 10 minutes before he was taken by stretcher to the sanctuary of the Academy building.

Ten minutes into the second half and the visitors made the breakthrough when Sam Packham’s free-kick was put away by central defender Clark-Eden.

This meant that United would probably have to score twice to stay in the competition and that mission looked even more precarious when Jack Spong struck an upright from the edge of the area.

Mateo Meija.
Spanish youngster Mateo Mejia suffered what appeared to serious injury to his right leg.

Watched by a group of first-team players, including Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Brandon Williams, who’d just finishing training ahead of the game against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, the young Reds continued to press forward.

In the 71st minute, they got their reward when substitute Shoretire collected a Neville cross before tucking the ball past Seagull’s ‘keeper Rocco Rees.

It gave United a renewed hope of putting one over this accomplished Brighton side but, try as they may, another goal wouldn’t come along.     

MATCH DETAILS

MANCHESTER UNITED UNDER-18S 1 (Shoretire 71)
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION UNDER-18S 1 (Clark-Eden 55)

United: Mee, Neville, Fish, Hockenhull, Dodgson; Mejbri, Forson (Shoretire 62), Svidersky; Wellens, Mejia (Hoogewerf 45+3), Sotona.

Substitutes not used: Mastny, Denham, Iqbal.

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