Under-18s report: Middlesbrough 3 United 1
Under-18 Premier League North | Rockliffe Park | Scorers: Wearne 24, McGill 44, 47; Puigmal 40.
Manchester United Under-18s' unbeaten start to the season came to an end at Middlesbrough as goals conceded either side of half-time proved to be their undoing at Rockliffe Park.
Up to that point, the young Reds were on a par with Boro, but that rapid double blast proved too big a mountain to climb for Neil Ryan’s lads. It was bright and breezy in this little picturesque corner of the North East and quite a few spectators turned out to take advantage of the pleasant conditions and watch their favourite team.
United, wearing the changed strip of all-blue, looked fresh and lively at the start of the game, despite the two-and-a-half hour coach journey to Teesside. Defender Ethan Laird was the first to put the Boro goal under pressure after moving upfield to join the attack.
The visitors were certainly having the bigger share of possession and looking the more likely to get on the scoresheet until the 25th minute, when Boro eased into the lead with a goal from winger Stephen Wearne. And it could have been worse a couple of minutes later when only a fine save from Alex Fojtiček prevented Layton Watts from doubling Boro’s advantage. Scoring always provides a boost to confidence, so it was no surprise that the home side started to have a bigger impact on proceedings.
Di’Shon Bernard and Laird both went close for United and then, five minutes before the break, the young Reds swept forward to claim the equaliser with a great strike from Arnau Puigmal.
However, the celebrations were soon to be cut short as, just moments before the break, Boro regained the lead through Gabby McGill after Kian Spence’s shot had struck the post.
United’s problems were increased two minutes into the second half when Boro moved further ahead, with striker McGill grabbing his second goal of the game.
It was the second time in four matches that United had conceded three goals, but on the other occasion, against Derby County at the Aon Training Complex, they also scored three. But, as time wore on, it became increasingly unlikely that the performance against the Rams was about to be repeated.
Mason Greenwood displayed a terrific burst of speed to get himself into a scoring position, but the striker's well-struck shot failed to find a route past goalkeeper Sol Brynn, who made some fine saves throughout.
After Harvey Neville - son of former United player Phil - came on as a late substitute for his Under-18s debut for United, Boro ended the game with 10 men after Wearne was red-carded, following a lunging challenge on Puigmal, but the hosts managed to see out the victory.
United: Fojtiček; Laird, Mengi, Bernard, Devine (Hockenhull 75); Levitt, Puigmal (Neville 89); Elanga, McGhee (Stanley 83), McCann; Greenwood. Subs not used: Thompson, Denham.
After the international break, the Under-18s welcome Blackburn Rovers to the Aon Training Complex on Saturday 15 September, with kick-off at 11:00 BST.