Under-18s make winning start to the season
Manchester United got the Under-18 Premier League North campaign off to a flying start with an impressive 3-0 win over Sunderland at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday afternoon.
The young Reds were in command for the majority of the 90 minutes and, but for a terrific performance from visitors’ goalkeeper Jack Newman, the list of goalscorers would have comprised of more than the three scored by Charlie McCann from the penalty spot, Anthony Elanga and Charlie Wellens.
The pitch was looking resplendent with a meticulous surface and brand-new hoardings alongside the team benches, which gave the scene a more enclosed feel.
As for the prevailing conditions, it was bright – albeit cloudy – as kick-off approached, but the forecast was for a spell of liquid weather in the early afternoon, so everyone in attendance was keeping their fingers crossed.
United, who scored a total of 10 goals in our two games against the Black Cats last season, were hoping to follow the lead of the Under-23s who, on Friday night, had launched their campaign against West Bromwich Albion at Kidderminster with a 5-0 victory.
The early exchanges suggested that Sunderland were going to present more of a challenge to that faced by their older colleagues against the Baggies. Goalkeeper Newman looked in the mood to deny United on his own with a string of vital saves.
Elanga, who posed a constant threat to the visitors, could easily have opened the scoring in the third minute but Newman’s fingertips ensured the ball wouldn’t reach its intended destination.
The Black Cats’ custodian stood firm again and again until the 28th minute when Connor Stanley was brought down after sprinting into the area.
It appeared that Elanga, who could have already claimed a hat-trick but for Newman’s heroics, appeared to be readying himself to take the penalty until McCann strode up to place the ball on the spot before proving that Newman wasn’t unbeatable after all as he coolly slotted the ball down the middle to send the keeper the wrong way.
The breakthrough was nothing more than United deserved after the opening spell of the game, having created considerably more chances than the visitors.
Five minutes later, Elanga finally got the reward he so richly deserved when, after combining with Reece Devine and Max Haygarth, he was celebrating after finding a way past the Black Cats keeper, who was fast becoming his nemesis, with a fine curling shot from 15 yards.
United were comfortably into our stride by now and starting to dominate possession, as well as looking more than likely to add to the scoresheet.
Shortly after the restart, that belief proved to be accurate as Elanga raced down the left wing before setting up the simplest of chances for Wellens, who tapped home from close range.
Sunderland scored three goals themselves in the corresponding fixture last season, but it was going to take a remarkable fightback from the Wearsiders if they were to salvage anything from this contest.
The visitors almost pulled a goal back when Cole Kiernan burst through and rounded debutant keeper Ondrej Mastny but McCann was in the right place to make a splendid goalline clearance.
Coach Neil Ryan utilised his full quota of substitutes during the second half as the young Reds saw out the game professionally to make a winning start to the new campaign.
United: Mastny; Bejger, Mengi (c), Hockenhull, Devine; Wellens (Shoretire 67), McCann, Helm; Stanley (Neville 74), Haygarth (Hoogewerf 67), Elanga.
Subs not used: Mee, Fish.
Goals: McCann 29 pen, Elanga 34, Wellens 54
Our first away game of the new campaign will be against Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday, 17 August. Kick-off at the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground will be at 11:30 BST.
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