Under-23s: United 2 City 2

Manchester United and Manchester City deservedly shared the points after drawing 2-2 in this splendid Premier League 2 Division One clash at Leigh Sports Village Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

This game delivered everything that is expected when these two great clubs meet and the drama, excitement and thoroughly excellent entertainment flowed from the first whistle.

City scored the first goal and the last, through James McAtee and Taylor Bellis respectively, with strikes from United’s Ethan Galbraith and Facundo Pellistri providing the filling in the sandwich. The Blues had to complete the whole of the second half with ten men after Adrian Bernabe had been given his marching orders in the 35th minute.

The conditions at Leigh - overcast and chilly with teeming rain - were what could be described as perfect Mancunian weather for a game between these ancient cross-city rivals.

Galbraith slots home his penaltyVideo

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s the Under-10s or the first teams in action, it is a fixture that captures all the passion and excitement of the beautful game.

Granted, the previous day’s senior derby at Old Trafford, by general consent, failed to catch fire as a contest but it was a vastly different story – from the off – in this meeting.

And it was City who made the brighter start with a couple of early raids which had the Reds’ defence battening down the hatches. The visitors were immediately into their stride and they underlined that good start with a goal from McAtee, a Salfordian, in just the 7th minute.

United were not by any means sluggish and within six minutes the early setback had been forgotten when the score was levelled. The Reds had hit back positively and when the ever-lively Hannibal was fouled in the area by City defender Luke Mbete, it was Galbraith who stepped forward to confidently fire the spot-kick past ‘keeper Cieran Slicker.

Already the match had eclipsed the disappointing senior match on Saturday and the action continued to unfold in United’s favour.

Ten minutes before the break, the Blues were dealt a severe blow when defender Bernabe, who had been responsible for setting up City’s early goal, was shown a red card by referee Andrew Kitchen following an awful studs-up lunge on Galbraith. Blues coach Enzo Maresca immediately reshuffled his team by replacing forward Felix Nmecha with defender Conrad Egan-Riley.

United were quick to capitalise on City’s misfortune, going in front just four minutes later when Pellistri took a short pass from Ethan Laird before calmly tapping the ball into the net for this third goal in as many games.

The end-to-end nature of the first half was certain to change with the visitors being restricted to some degree and so it appeared as the match unfolded with the Reds monopolising possession.

Pellistri’s third goal in three gamesVideo

But as so often happens in these situations, it was the depleted side who struck the next blow. The Blues were awarded a corner which was taken by Tommy Doyle, grandson of former City greats Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe, and his kick found defender Bellis who took his chance with relish.

The goal noticeably increased City’s morale and they began to push forward in numbers. And the chances started to arrive, particularly from Doyle’s dangerous free-kicks. McAtee was incredibly unlucky with a shot from just inside United’s half which struck the post with Reds goalkeeper Paul Woolston scrambling back.

It was impossible to ignore this match for a second with the incidents continually piling up. And make no mistake this was a no favours asked, no favours given, full-blooded clash.

The fans of both clubs take great delight in claiming bragging rights from these games but on this occasion everyone should be well satisfied with a share of the points and the laurels.
Brandon Williams in action against Manchester City Under-23s
Reds left-back Brandon Williams joins the attack.

MATCH DETAILS

United: Woolston; Laird, Fish (c), Devine (Fernandez 77), Williams; Galbraith, Puigmal; Pellistri (Hugill 64), Hannibal, Shoretire; Elanga.

Subs not used: Mastny, Helm, McCann.

Booked: Galbraith, Fish

Goals: Galbraith 13, Pellistri 39 | McAtee 7, Harwood-Bellis 53

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