Young Reds learn Leicester lesson
Manchester United’s Under-23s came out second best in our opening match of the Premier League 2 Division One season, going down 2-0 to Leicester City on Monday evening at Leigh Sports Village.
The visitors, who were physical opponents, proved to be the more accurate in front of goal, when it really mattered, to claim the three points with two second-half goals.
Both United and Leicester finished as runners-up in their respective tables last season, United’s second-place, of course, leading to promotion to the top division.
So the scene was set for an entertaining curtain-raiser to the new season and the opening to the game didn’t disappoint.
Both teams launched into the contest in a breathless manner and the visitors were the first to threaten. Khanya Leshabela slammed a cracking drive against the frame of Ondrej Mastny’s goal in only the sixth minute and, soon after, Mitchell Clark’s shot was narrowly wide of the target.
Leicester defender Vontae Daley-Campbell was one of five Foxes players who would be booked, after fouling Anthony Elanga on the edge of the penalty area, and only an unkind deflection prevented skipper James Garner’s free-kick from putting United into the lead.
Mastny’s woodwork was rattled again, a few minutes later, by long-range strike by Connor Hulme and the visitors must have started to wonder if Lady Luck was going to be on their side.
Hannibal made a surging run upfield, in the moments before half-time, but couldn’t finish what appeared to be promising break. Then, on the stroke of half-time, United should have scored but Elanga's finish to a Martin Svidersky pass was kept out by Jakub Stolarczyk, with the follow-up also blocked.
Overall, there was little to separate the teams in terms of an appetite to go forward and attacking endeavour but the visitors were edging it in the goal attempts column, with Mastny making a couple of smart stops. Nonetheless, United's response to going behind was impressive with Elanga doing his level best to hunt an equaliser. After receiving a fine pass by Bernard, his shot lacked the power to beat Stolarczyk.
Five minutes from time, United’s hopes of gleaning some reward from the evening evaporated when full-back Clark scored to double the advantage. The defender, who had just been booked for needlessly shoving Hannibal to the ground, showed his experience from over half-a-century of games on loan at Port Vale by driving into space and unleashing a fine shot past Mastny.
Even with the game seemingly lost, the hosts still attempted to notch a consolation but Shola Shoretire, brought on for his Premier League 2 debut at the tender age of 16, was denied by the quick reflexes of Stolarczyk and Garner crashed a deflected shot inches wide in stoppage time.
This was always going to be a stern test for Neil Wood's side, without several key players and up against strong rivals who went the course and distance last term and this should prove another important part of the youngsters' education.
Next up in the league, a week on Friday, is a home game against Liverpool, which will also be live on MUTV.
United 0 Leicester 2 (Reghba 60, Clark 85)
United: Mastny; Ercolani, Fish, Bernard, Svidersky; Garner (c), Galbraith; Stanley (Shoretire 65), Hannibal, Elanga; Helm.
Subs not used: Carney, Neville, Taylor, McCann.