Under-23s get back to winning ways
Manchester United's Under-23s got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home victory over Norwich City at Leigh Sports Village.
After Monday's 4-1 defeat to Aston Villa, a first loss of the campaign, there were still a number of younger faces in the side but Lee Grant kept goal for his first appearance of 2019/20. Di'Shon Bernard was cleared to play after his early red card against the Midlanders was overturned.
James Garner and Largie Ramazani, from the penalty spot, scored their fifth goals of the term in a commanding display by the Reds, who also hit the woodwork and had a goal harshly disallowed.
Grant was soon into action, making a fine catch from a corner, as the Canaries started on the front foot, with their high-tempo pressing unsettling Neil Wood's side. Rob Nizet was a threat from left-back for a team with real height in its ranks but United gradually began to apply pressure, with Louis Lomas forced to make a good interception to thwart one promising move and Arnau Puignmal whipping a free-kick wide after Ramazani was chopped down by Akin Famewo.
Gassan Ahadme was almost in the clear for the visitors, only for Teden Mengi to recover and display his defensive prowess, while Nizet dragged wastefully wide on the half-hour mark after cutting inside right-back Puigmal. Although Isak Thorvaldsson forced a save out of Grant, most of the chances then started falling the Reds' way as the half wore on.
Aliou Traore's neat footwork led to a shot from an improbable angle by the Frenchman that hit a combination of post and keeper Archie Mair and bounced out for a corner. Ramazani then fired straight at Mair when Dion McGhee headed the ball into his path after Garner's free-kick struck the wall.
The pressure told, though, when Anthony Elanga burst down the left and fed full-back Reece Devine, who cut it back accurately for Garner to calmly pass the ball home in style.
The lead looked to have been doubled on the stroke of half-time but Ramazani's tap-in was ruled out, presumably for a foul by Bernard on Mair as the pair simply collided when trying to get to a McGhee free-kick from the right.
United were indebted to Grant in the opening minute of the second half after a mistake by Mengi led to the ball being worked to Ahadme, and the striker felt his shot was on its way in, until the 36-year-old keeper thrust out a hand to brilliantly tip it around the post.
The Canaries had their tails up with Josh Martin's belting drive skimming Grant's left-hand upright, but the home side dug in and replied with efforts from Garner, ambitiously from inside the centre-circle when spotting Mair off his line, and Ramazani, who got a stinging shot on target following a brilliant break forward by Traore.
With an hour gone, Ahadme's exquisite touch allowed him to move past Garner but his attempt squirted off Mengi and harmlessly drifted through to Grant. Tom Scully then crashed a decent free-kick wide with Grant flying across his goal.
Substitute Mark Helm fed Elanga in the 67th minute and the left-winger accelerated past two defenders to draw a foul out of Jordan Thomas. Ramazani took the responsibility and sent Mair the wrong way from the spot, before celebrating acrobatically.
Elanga continued to give his marker Thomas a difficult time but one rampaging solo run unfortunately ended with a finish that was comfortably held by Mair. The keeper was more severely tested by a bobbling drive from Traore, that he pushed away, and the former Aberdeen stopper also beat out a powerful shot by Ramazani.
Thomas was guilty of a crude foul on Elanga that earned a yellow card in the dying seconds after the wide man showed off his pace again but he was able to continue.
So it was a case of three points, a clean sheet and United replacing West Ham at the top of the Premier League 2 Division 2 table on a good night's work in Leigh.
United: Grant; Puigmal, Mengi, Bernard, Devine; Garner, Traore; McGhee (Helm 64), Galbraith, Elanga; Ramazani.
Substitutes not used: Kovar, Fish, Wellens, Hoogewerf.
Scorers: Garner 41, Ramazani 68 (pen).
Neil Wood's squad have a Leasing.com Trophy fixture, against Lincoln City's senior side at Sincil Bank, on Tuesday night with a 19:45 BST kick-off. The action is live on MUTV.
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