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.
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.
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.
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.
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.