Tim Fosu-Mensah on the ball against Stoke City Under-23s

Defensive duo return in Under-23 thriller

Monday 02 March 2020 21:17

Manchester United Under-23s' excellent campaign continued with a thrilling 3-2 win at Stoke City, in a classic ‘game of two halves’ on Monday night.

With first-team defenders Tim Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe making guest appearances on their returns from injury, the Reds produced a sparkling first-half display, capped by two goals from James Garner and another from skipper Angel Gomes.

It looked all over for the Potters at the interval but they were transformed in the second period. Goals from Will Forrester and Cameron McJannet led to United hanging on in the closing stages and Tuanzebe denying the hosts an injury-time equaliser with a superb headed clearance off the line.
Watch James Garner's first goal, a powerful header from Tahith Chong's cross.
The Reds started the game firmly in the driving seat as regards the effort to gain promotion at the season’s close. Although leaders West Ham United remain favourites to secure an automatic rise into the elite division, Neil Wood’s side can still reel in the Hammers. Finishing as runners-up would be an acceptable consolation as it guarantees home advantage in both the end-of-season play-off semi-final and final.

The playing surface at the bet365 Stadium looked in beautifully manicured condition on this bitterly cold evening in the Potteries. The Reds' line-up, wearing an all-black change strip, was one of the strongest that coach Wood has selected this season and it wasn’t long before his charges were in full flow against a Stoke side including former United players Ryan Shawcross and Mame Diouf.

Tahith Chong immediately caught the eye with a really lively spell at the start of the game and it came as no surprise when the 20-year-old Dutchman provided a beautiful cross for Garner to score a terrific headed goal for United in the 12th minute.
It was just the opening to the match that any promotion-chasing side would hope to achieve and eight minutes later United were celebrating again.

Chong was proving to be a real thorn in the Potters' side and he was involved again, linking well with Fosu-Mensah as the Reds doubled the lead with skipper Gomes finding the net with a wonderfully neat far-post finish.

Stoke had the ball in the net twice in the first half but on both occasions the assistant referee’s flag was to deny them a way back into the contest. On the second occasion, it almost instantly became a double blow as United raced downfield to claim a third goal of the half with Garner getting his second of the night with the most delicate of chips past goalkeeper Adam Davies.

What a remarkable half of football the small crowd had witnessed and there could quite easily have been several more goals to enjoy.
Watch United's second goal, scored by Angel Gomes.
Stoke were slightly late returning to the pitch following the break but that didn’t stop them from going through their ritual warm-up routine.

And there was no denying that their extra few minutes in the dressing room was proving beneficial, for within ten minutes of the restart they had pulled a goal back thanks to a strong header from central defender Will Forrester.

United had appeared to be all-but ‘home and dry’ at half-time but Stoke were starting to force a rethink and, in the 68th minute, they reduced the deficit again with another header from Cameron McJannet, which may have taken a touch from Diouf before nestling in Kovar’s net.

The Reds were forced to man the barricades in the closing few minutes and only Tuanzebe's header off the line prevented Stoke from completing an astonishing comeback.
Heads we win! This terrific Tuanzebe clearance sealed United's 3-2 victory.

United: Kovar; Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Bernard, McGhee (Mengi 84); Garner, Galbraith, Levitt, Chong (Traore 76), Gomes, Barlow.

Substitutes not used: Carney, Helm, Bejger.

Goals: Stoke - Forrester 55, McJannet 68 | United - Garner 12, 39, Gomes 20.