Under-18 Premier League North | Aon Training Complex | Scorers: Greenwood 4, 21, 88, Elanga 62; Vale 45+1, 57, Burns 81
A fantastic hat-trick from Mason Greenwood helped Manchester United's Under-18s return to winning ways in a seven-goal thriller against Blackburn Rovers at the Aon Training Centre on Saturday.
Neil Ryan's team were forced to battle all the way for this success against an industrious and talented Rovers side.
The game could have gone either way, but United always looked the more likely to snatch the victory with Greenwood in such outstanding form.
From the early moments of the match, the young Reds looked in a determined mood to erase the memory of their last outing, when beaten 3-1 against Middlesbrough on Teesside.
An early goal is always handy and, after four minutes, United struck the first blow when Greenwood latched on to a pass from Anthony Elanga before neatly slotting the ball past Rovers keeper Ben Winterbottom.
United, at any level, very rarely get an easy passage against the Lancashire lads and it was obvious, as this match unfolded, that this would prove to be the case again.
It certainly wasn’t just United who were looking to score goals, but it was the Reds who chalked up the second of the game in the 21st minute, when Greenwood beat the visitors' keeper again with a delightful chipped effort after seizing upon a loose touch from George Wilson.
Less than a third of the contest had elapsed and United looked to be in good shape to return to winning ways, but on the stroke of half-time, Rovers threw a spanner in the works when Jack Vale scored at the second attempt, following a good save from Alex Fojticek, to halve United’s advantage.
And, 10 minutes after the restart, Vale was on the mark again to level the scores, pulling away at the far post to volley home from Luke Brennan’s corner.
United had moved from a commanding position to being pegged back in barely 10 minutes, but there was plenty more to come from this riveting contest.
Eight minutes after Rovers had ‘balanced the books’, United were back in front thanks to a close-range finish from Elanga, for his first Under-18s goal.
This goal could have taken the wind out of Rovers’ sails, but it didn't seem to and, nine minutes from the end, substitute Sam Burns unleashed a low shot which went through Fojticek to make it all square once again.
The teams looked to be heading towards a share of the spoils, but that was before Greenwood completed his hat-trick with a solo goal that had the fans jumping for joy on the touchline.
United: Fojticek; Laird, Bernard, Mengi, Williams (c); Levitt, Traore; Elanga (Mellor 65), McGhee (Galbraith 73), McCann (Puigmal 73); Greenwood. Subs not used: Thompson, Devine.
The Under-18s travel to the Midlands for their next assignment, when taking on West Bromwich Albion away from home on Saturday 22 September. Kick-off is scheduled for 11:30 BST.