Manchester United's Under-23s shared four goals with Stoke City at Clayton Wood, the Potters' training complex, on Monday afternoon as Ricky Sbragia's side continued their build-up to the new season.
This was the young Reds' third pre-season warm-up fixture following a 2-0 defeat against SV Ried in Austria and last week’s game at the Aon Training Complex, which Rochdale won with a single goal from the penalty spot.
It was another warm day in the Potteries but, thankfully, there was cloud cover and a very pleasant breeze that helped to make the conditions more bearable for the players. Rain threatened as the game started – but didn’t arrive – and it was Stoke City, in their traditional red and white stripes, who made the early running.
The hosts were lively in attack and caused United’s defence a few nervy moments as the contest unfolded.
Stoke capitalised on their better start by taking the lead in the 15th minute, when Julien Ngoy got the final touch to send the ball past Matej Kovar and into the United net. Tyrese Campbell very nearly doubled the lead a minute later, but was thwarted by Kovar’s quick thinking.
Seven minutes after Stoke’s opener, United were level thanks to a brilliant goal from James Wilson. The Reds striker was well outside the area and, while a pass looked on the cards, he fooled everyone, including keeper Mate Deczki, to score with a low shot.
The goal heralded a good spell for United, with Wilson going close to finding the net again on two separate occasions.
Chances became scarce after the break, but the action swung back and forth as the teams searched for the game's fifth goal.
Ngoy restored Stoke’s lead in the 38th minute with a long-range curling shot, but on the stroke of half-time, United grabbed the equaliser when George Tanner crossed from the right for Nishan Burkart to fire home.
As is the norm in this type of match, there were numerous changes to the line-ups during the second half, but that did little to slow the tempo or reduce the drive and determination of both sets of players.
Millen Baars, one of United’s substitutes, went close with 10 minutes remaining, with a shot that went just the wrong side of the post. And with less than two minutes left on the clock, Ngoy missed a great opportunity to complete his hat-trick for the hosts, when he shot wide with only United's substitute keeper Alex Fojtíček to beat.
Ultimately it was a fair result and, more importantly, a really good workout for both teams as they prepare for the new season.
United: Kovar (Fojtíček 57); Tanner (Warren 57), Poole (Dunne 57), Borthwick-Jackson, O’Connor ((Ercolani 57); McIntosh-Buffonge (Sang 57), Troare (Whelan 45), Willock, Dearnley (Baars 57); Burkart (Barlow 45), Wilson (Dearnley 74). Goals: Wilson 22, Burkart 45.