Under-23s: United's late double sinks the Saints
Two goals from Charlie McCann inside the final seven minutes saw Manchester United’s Under-23s come from behind to win a Premier League 2 Division One clash against Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
As the game unfolded, it was evident that United coach Neil Wood had chosen to set his side up in a 3-5-2 formation with Harvey Neville and Alvaro Fernandez deployed as wing-backs ahead of their fellow defenders Max Taylor, Will Fish and Reece Devine.
A midfield trio comprising Martin Svidersky, Ethan Galbraith and McCann operated behind Joe Hugill and Mark Helm who were given the striking duties.
The Saints made a lively start and for the opening few minutes dictated the play with a series of attacks which had the Reds back-pedalling.
United gradually settled down and, in the 10th minute, were desperately unlucky not to snatch the lead. The Reds did nothing wrong with duo Charlie McCann and Martin Svidersky both hitting goal-worthy shots, but two brilliant saves from home goalkeeper Jack Bycroft saw both players denied in the space of a matter of seconds.
The home side continued to pose a threat each time they ventured up field and moments after Bycroft’s heroics, United’s ‘keeper Matej Kovar was equally impressive in diving to prevent Jayden Smith from putting the Saints in front.
The level of goalkeeping at both ends continued to be a feature as the match closed in on half-time and Bycroft again proved himself to be a formidable obstacle by denying Helm with his fingertips.
A few minutes later and remarkably it was an unlikely error by Bycroft which allowed in Joe Hugill, who proceeded to have the ball cleared off the line and hit the post in a bizarre passage of play.
United were looking the more likely as the interval arrived with both Hugill and McCann forcing the Saints’ defence to take preventative action.
Not to be upstaged by his counterpart, Kovar came to the Reds' rescue a few minutes later when he stuck out a leg to block Smith’s shot that looked destined to cross the line.
Both ‘keepers had looked pretty well unbeatable all afternoon and it was clear that it would take something exceptional to breach either goal. And then, unexpectedly, both Bycroft and Kovar were both called on to retrieve the ball from the net.
In the 74th minute, Kazeem Oliagbe unleashed a left-footed boomer that half-a-dozen Kovars couldn’t have stopped. Time was now at a premium, but help was at hand and with seven minutes remaining, McCann beautifully controlled a pass from Fish before swivelling and blasting in the equaliser.
It was an astonishing end to a game that ebbed and flowed, was dominated by the goalkeepers, and concluded in sensational fashion.
United: Kovar; Neville (Emeran 79), Taylor, Fish, Devine, Fernandez; Svidersky, Galbraith, McCann; Hugill (Hoogewerf 64), Helm.
Substitute not used: Mastny.
Goals: McCann 83, 85 | Olaigbe 74.