Under-19s: Reds rise to the Milan challenge
The youth squads of Manchester United and AC Milan produced an early Christmas cracker of a game at Leigh Sports Village Stadium on Friday evening.
Having not qualified for this season’s UEFA Youth League, the club’s Academy officials have, to some degree, filled the void by inviting the juniors of some of the continent’s top clubs over to Manchester. This friendly against AC Milan, one of the true aristocrats of European football, is the second such attraction following the visit of Hertha Berlin to Altrincham in September.
The Italian side, including Daniel Maldini, son of Paolo, the Milan legend, entered the field of play wearing a change strip of all-white instead of their famous red and black stripes, whilst United were in red shirts and black shorts.
This may have been billed as a non-competitive match but the opening few minutes gave the impression that both teams were treating it as if a place in the next round was at stake. Tahith Chong was the first to test the Milanese goalkeeper Matteo Soncin, in the 6th minute, with a blistering shot that had goal written all over it until it was saved. Aliou Traore got in on the act a few minutes later with a grass-cutter which was effectively dealt with by Soncin.
This incident heralded in a few minutes of intense pressure from the Milan attack which produced at least three good scoring chances.
It had developed into a top-quality, very watchable contest and all that was missing was a goal to give it a touch of pre-Christmas sparkle. But then, in the 33rd minute, that was duly delivered when Ethan Laird’s terrific overlapping skills presented Mellor, waiting inside Milan’s goal area, with a scoring chance that was easier to score than miss.
Both sides' approach play was a feature of the game and with a little more care in front of goal we could have been witnessing a high-scoring affair.
Mellor, Puigmal, Chong and Mellor were all within an ace of finding the net while at the other end Emanuele Pecorino’s spectacular overhead saw the ball skim Kovar’s bar.
United: Kovar; Dalot (Bejger 72), Mengi, Bernard, Laird; Galbraith, Gomes, Puigmal (Helm 75); Chong, Mellor (McCann 80), Traore.
Substitutes not used: Taylor, Mastny, Hockenhull, Neville.
Goals: Mellor 33, Gomes 87, Chong pen 90+5.
Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.