Largie Ramazani in action against Reading Under-23s

Under-23s' international cup run comes to an end

Manchester United's encouraging run in the Premier League International Cup, which peaked with a win over Paris Saint-Germain, ended with a 3-1 defeat against Reading on Monday night in front of 654 fans at Leigh Sports Village.

Reading’s Danny Loader - who played against our first team in the Emirates FA Cup last month - grabbed a hat-trick, including a disputed second-half penalty, to seal United’s fate. Dylan Levitt scored the Reds' reply with an earlier spot-kick, just before the break following a foul on Joshua Bohui, but in the end it just wasn’t to be our night.

United were taking a break from the bid to gain promotion back to Premier League 2 Division One by attempting to step forward into the last four of the league’s cup competition. Ricky Sbragia's side qualified for the knock-out stage after beating PSG and drawing with Derby County and PSV Eindhoven to finish top of a tight group on goal difference.

The format of the international tournament is somewhat unusual with every match being staged in this country, despite several of Europe’s top sides taking part; even if two continental teams contested the final it would be played at a venue in England. Yet it certainly provides a welcome touch of variety for the young players, away from the bread and butter of the league programme, and gives them an opportunity to test themselves against some good-quality opponents from overseas.
Joshua Bohui in action against Reading's Under-23s
Bohui spearheaded United's attack against Reading.
As for Reading, this was the Berkshire club's second trip to face United's Under-23s in Manchester this season, after taking a point from the league encounter at Old Trafford.

Following the first half-hour of this cup tie, the Royals appeared to be more than capable of improving on that previous performance when striker Loader scored twice to put them on top. Both goals were of a slightly fortuitous nature; the first fell to him after he was gifted possession inside the United box, before a deflected shot doubled his tally.

United looked to have an uphill task, but shortly before half-time, our hopes were raised when Dylan Levitt scored from the penalty spot after Joshua Bohui’s progress had been abruptly curtailed in the area.

The Reds could easily have been on terms at the break if Largie Ramazani’s beautifully struck shot inside the opening ten minutes had gone in instead of rebounding off the woodwork. Aidan Barlow followed up to crack the ball into the net, but the flag on the far side of the pitch was already in the air for offside.
United’s late first-half goal set the game up nicely as a contest with both sides showing a healthy appetite for the attacking aspects after the break.

The two goalkeepers, the Reds' Matej Kovar and Coniah Boyce-Clark of Reading, were constantly in action and the Royals' custodian made one terrific intervention in particular to deny Bohui.

Dylan Levitt scores a penalty against Reading's Under-23s
Levitt made the score 2-1 when he pulled a goal back for United with this penalty just before half-time.
Chances were made and squandered at both ends until eleven minutes from full-time when Reading’s two-goal hero Loader was adjudged to have been illegally challenged in United’s area. The striker calmly picked himself up before beating Kovar from the spot to complete his hat-trick and leave the Reds looking towards a return to league action, at home to Norwich City on Friday night.


United: Kovar, O’Connor, Ercolani, Bernard, Williams B. (Tanner 78): Levitt, Barlow, Traore (Stanley 73); Bohui, Burkart (Galbraith 63), Ramazani.

Substitutes not used: Fojticek, Olosunde.

Scorers: United - Levitt pen. 42 | Reading - Loader 13, 27, pen. 79.