Manchester United leapfrogged neighbours City to reach the summit of the Premier League Under-18 North following this impressive victory over Stoke City at The Cliff on Friday evening.
The Blues from across Manchester had only claimed the top spot a few hours earlier following a convincing 6-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Etihad Campus.
The Reds wasted no time getting into our stride with one of the earliest attacks ending with the ball nestling in the Potters’ net. A swift move upfield culminated in Mason Greenwood providing the final pass for Charlie McCann to hit an angled drive past Nathan Broome for his first Under-18s goal.
It was the perfect start and with a little more accuracy from Greenwood the Reds could have doubled or trebled their advantage. In the 11th minute, the striker fired wide from the penalty spot after Stoke’s Reece Jones brought down Ethan Laird.
And then, shortly afterwards, Greenwood failed to hit the target from a position that is normally lethal territory for last term's leading scorer. United eventually increased the lead, in the 32nd minute, with a bizarre goal that saw an attempted clearance by the Stoke skipper Will Forester appear to ricochet off team-mate Max Murphy or Reds winger Anthony Elanga and into the net. Although replays may clear it up, Elanga was initially credited with the goal.
Our Under-18s were good value for their lead, but Stoke were by no means being steamrollered and, on more than one occasion, United’s defence were forced into serious preventative action.
The second half was now being played under the illumination of The Cliff’s eight-pylon floodlighting system, and they nearly threw the spotlight on Aliou Traore, who went inches from scoring United’s third goal. Stoke were soon celebrating, though, after Jones superbly set-up James Jennings to halve United’s lead with a calm finish past Alex Fojticek.
However, their joy was short-lived as, seven minutes later, McCann hammered his second goal of the evening with a rising drive over Broome, punishing a loose clearance by the keeper.
Greenwood, who had not enjoyed good fortune in front of goal, finally got his name of the scoresheet with eight minutes remaining, by getting on the end of Traore's fine ball into the area. Substitute Mark Helm, who had replaced Dylan Levitt in the 84th minute, put the icing on the cake when he grabbed United’s fifth goal in added time, capitalising on a driving run into the danger zone by full-back Arnau Puigmal.
While there will still be some debate over whether Elanga ulitmately gets the second goal, this was another excellent display by Neil Ryan's side.
United: Fojticek; Puigmal, Mengi (Devine 62), Bernard, Laird; McGhee, Levitt (Helm 84), Traore; Elanga, Greenwood, McCann (Stanley 78).
Subs not used: Thompson, Hockenhull.
Scorers: McCann 4, 61, Elanga 32, Greenwood 82, Helm 90+5. Stoke City scorer: Jennings 54.
September starts with a game on the first day of the month at Middlesbrough, with a Saturday lunch-time kick-off at 12:30 BST.