United run City close in Under-23 derby
Manchester United’s Under-23s were involved in a six-goal thriller with neighbours Manchester City at Leigh Sports Village Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was a terrific cross-city encounter with the outcome remaining in the balance until the closing stages.
Alvaro Fernandez and Dillon Hoogewerf claimed United’s goals whilst James McAtee bagged a hat-trick for City with Tai Sodje adding the fourth.
It was a perfect afternoon for football as this latest mini-derby commenced with both teams sporting their traditional colours, United in red and City in sky blue. And there was a decent-sized crowd in the stands to witness this Premier League 2 Division One clash between Manchester’s ancient rivals.
As expected, there was a lively opening to the game with Charlie Savage almost firing United into a fifth-minute lead and then, two minutes later at the other end, City going in front through a slick attack concluded by McAtee.
The Blues, reigning champions of this division, were looking dangerous when in the Reds’ territory but United were also having encouraging moments in City’s penalty area. It was certainly a day for the wide players with Shola Shoretire and Zidane Iqbal prominent for the Reds and Samuel Edozie posing a constant threat on the visitors’ right wing.
The clock was ticking rapidly towards half-time when a header from Reds defender Joseph Olowu went inches wide of the far post from Hannibal’s corner.
United then drew level with a truly memorable solo goal from Fernandez. The Reds full-back embarked on a single-minded assault on the visitors’ defence which terminated with his shot hurtling past City keeper Kieran Slicker into the net.
Seconds after the restart, Fernandez almost plotted another goal for United with a tremendous cross which Joe Hugill very nearly latched on to after making a despairing lunge. Shortly after, United were again inches away from a second strike when Olowu’s speculative cross hit the top of Slicker’s crossbar.
The game was looking as though it could go either way but it was the Blues who gained the advantage again with McAtee scoring his second goal of the afternoon. And it was the same player who extended City’s lead when he struck to complete his hat-trick in the 79th minute.
United were far from finished and, two minutes later, hope was reinstated when substitute Hoogewerf cracked the ball home with a rising drive.
Fernandez was sent off in the fourth minute of the injury time, for a second bookable offence, but the incident came too late to have any real impact on the proceedings.
United: Kovar; Wellens, Olowu, Hardley, Fernandez; Svidersky, Savage; Iqbal (Hoogewerf 81), Hannibal, Shoretire; Hugill (McNeill 70).
Substitutes not used: Vitek, Pye, Garnacho.
Goals: Fernandez 40, Hoogewerf 81 | McAtee 5, 60, 79, Sodje 87.