Manchester United and City battled out a hugely entertaining draw in the mini-derby at the Aon Training Complex.
The thriller swung one way then the other throughout and, with four penalties being given, and all scored, this was a truly sumptuous game contested by two finely balanced teams.
Chilly and dull, but dry at the Aon Training Complex, the conditions were ideal as these great rivals lined up for the kick-off.
If the colours of the shirts, United and City in their traditional red and blue shirts respectively, weren’t sufficient to inform the casual onlooker that this was a Manchester derby, the hectic opening few minutes certainly did.The game opened at a brisk pace with both sides doing their best to embrace the old adage that ‘attack is the best form of defence‘. Both goalkeepers were involved in the first rush of action, but it wasn’t until the 14th minute that one of them, City’s Louie Moulden was called upon to deal with a serious challenge.
United’s Charlie McCann, who was looking to weave his way into the City area, had his progress halted when he was tripped just inside the box by the Blues’ Lewis Florini. Dylan Levitt, who was successful spot in the Under-18s’ last home fixture, against Wolverhampton Wanderers, stepped up confidently to place his shot crisply past Moulden. There had been little to choose between the sides, but all games and particularly derbies, the end product is all-important target and Neil Ryan’s lads had struck the first blow.
The contest continued in a similar vein with one or two decent chances being created at both ends. Then, with four minutes of the first half left, the game was turned on its head as City proceeded to claim the lead in an extraordinary manner. Twice in a matter of three minutes, Florini, who’d been guilty of the foul that gave United a penalty, scored twice from the spot himself to put his side in front. Brandon Williams and Ethan Laird were the Reds involved in the incidents that preceded the penalty awards, which referee Peter Shacklady awarded without a moment’s hesitation.
Those two late strikes ensured that the Blues finished the first half with their noses in front, but the second half was to be equally entertaining.In the 57th minute, United clawed our way back into the match when Mason Greenwood’s shot was blocked by Moulden, but D’Mani Mellor was quick to react and gleefully tapped home the equaliser.
United had been having one of our best spells of the match and, in the 69th minute, we recaptured the lead from – believe it or not (!) - the penalty spot. Levitt converted again after Greenwood had been felled by Moulden, who raced from his line to fell the United striker with a clumsy challenge.This was a cracker of a game and there was even more to come for, with under 15 minutes to go, the Blues drew level once more with Florini providing the pass for Cole Palmer to take advantage of some loose defending by shooting past James Thompson.
With six goals shared and four penalty-kicks finding the intended target, this was a classic derby in every sense and nobody in the considerable gathering could possibly complain about the entertainment level which was of the highest standard.
Ultimately, a 3-3 draw was a fair result because neither side deserved to lose this exceptional mini-derby. However, it could have been won at the death with Greenwood and Ethan Galbraith going close for the Reds and home skipper James Garner forced into a flying header off his own line deep into stoppage time.
United:Thompson; Puigmal, Laird (Galbraith 67), Bernard, B. Williams (Devine 58); Traore, Garner, Levitt; Mellor, Greenwood, McCann (Ramazani 73).
Substitutes not used: Carney, McGhee.
Scorers: Levitt 14,69 (both pens) Mellor 57 | Florini 40,43 (both pens), Palmer 76
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