United Under-23s overcome the Gunners
There was no avalanche of goals this time out for Manchester United Under-23s but our 3-0 win over Arsenal at Leigh Sports Village Stadium was yet another entertaining and incident-littered ninety minutes of football.
The Reds also rattled the woodwork four times, Arsenal were reduced to ten men early on and Hannibal had to leave the field midway through the opening half.
Arsenal’s previous seven games had seen them remain undefeated with five victories - including a spectacular 6-0 win over high-flying Blackburn Rovers at Leyland - and a couple of draws.
So the scene was set for another entertaining contest with the expectation of at least a few goals to decorate the scene as it did in October when these teams drew 3-3 in London.
The Gunners, wearing a change strip of white shirts and red shorts, were pushed back in the opening moments and could well have been in arrears as early as the 8th minute when Gunners’ defender Daniel Oyegoke halted Hannibal’s progress in the penalty area and was red-carded for his deed. Joe Hugill took the spot-kick but ‘keeper Arthur Okonkwo dived correctly to push the ball away.
It was serious blow to Arsenal's ambitions and it forced their coach Steve Bould into an early reshuffle with substitute defender Jonathan Dinzeyi replacing midfielder Charlie Patino.
United had been on top and this incident did nothing to alter that. In the 22nd minute, Wood's men made the breakthrough with a sweeping move that ended with Neville getting his name on the scoresheet after connecting with Hugill’s fine pass from the left.
The visitors, to their credit, didn’t concede again before half-time despite a couple of stinging free-kicks from Shola Shoretire and Galbraith going tantalisingly close.
Arsenal attempted to hit back immediately after the restart and with a modicum of luck they could have been successful with both Flo Balogun and Tim Akinola going close to putting their team on terms.
The depleted Gunners had been battling commendably but just before the hour their defence was breached for the second time with Hugill squeezing the ball past Okonkwo after latching on to Alvaro Fernandez’s pass.
Shoretire put the icing on the cake close to the end when he found the net from the penalty spot after being fouled by Ryan Alebiosu.
United: Kovar; Neville, Galbraith, Devine, Fernandez; McCann, Helm; Stanley, Shoretire, Hannibal (Hardley 23); Hugill.
Substitutes not used: Mastny, Svidersky.
Goals: Neville 22, Hugill 59, Shoretire 89 pen.