Wood: Hannibal must maintain focus

Tuesday 11 May 2021 10:48

Manchester United Under-23s lead coach Neil Wood says Hannibal must remain focused on his game after the French youngster was sent off in the final game of the Premier League 2 season, against Derby County.

The 18-year-old opened the scoring with an excellent shot in the first half but was dismissed soon after the Rams' equaliser, and the visitors went on to claim a 3-1 victory over the 10 men.

Hannibal has been subjected to some rough treatment all season and Wood is keen that the midfielder's performances must not be overshadowed by any disciplinary concerns.

Lead coach Neil Wood spoke with us after the game at Leigh Sports Village.

"I think it [the second booking] comes from asking the ref for a yellow card for the lad who fouled him," explained Wood afterwards. "I know you can't do that in this country. I'm not sure maybe Hannibal doesn't quite know but he does now. I've had a good 25-minute chat with him.

“It's something he needs to learn from, especially in his career, he needs to learn to stay focused and not get distracted. It's a shame because it distracts away from his performances he's had for the majority of this season. He's put in some outstanding performances but he does take a lot of kicks and a lot of fouls. Teams do go for him and do target him.

“There have been games where he's kept his head down well, done well to stay on the pitch and kept a level head to rise above it. He's still learning, he's still in individual development and there are going to be little flare-ups but there have been less and less. So he's definitely improved on it and we've just got to keep hammering that message into him."

The defeat means the Reds finished eighth in Premier League 2 and there was much to admire from a very young side, particularly in an attacking sense, with some sensational play going forward over the course of 2020/21.

"We all knew it was going to be a tough season," said Wood. "We knew we were putting a lot of young players up at the start of the season and knew we'd be really stretched. That was the challenge for them but something we decided to do as a club. We feel it has benefited them and there has been quite a step forward in their development. To finish the season as second-top goalscorers showed we played really good football and scored some really good goals along the way.

U23s highlights: United 1 Derby 3 Video

U23s highlights: United 1 Derby 3

The Reds' season came to an end on Monday, with defeat at Leigh Sports Village...

"There has been some really entertaining football. The disappointment has been the goals conceded and the mistakes but it's consistency in development with the team changing and using over 42 players throughout the season. Those things are going to happen.

“I think they've done really well and I think they can be proud of themselves. We come back again for pre-season and I'm sure we'll be stretched and I'm sure we'll be young again next season but I am sure we will go for it again.”