Manchester United Under 21’s got off to a winning start in the newly formed Under 21’s league away against Stoke City this morning at Weaver Stadium.
United fielded many of the young stars that had been taken on one or both legs of the preseason tour, nearly all of whom looked better for their first team exploits. Also making his competitive debut this season was Darren Fletcher who played the entire 90 minutes, firstly as a holding midfielder, and then as a dynamic attacking midfielder once Davide Petrucci had been subbed late in the second half.
Stoke started brightly and could have gone ahead early on when Marmady Sidibe hit the bar inside the first five minutes, but it was United that took the lead after 7 minutes when Tunnicliffe set up Scott Wootton on the far right edge of Stoke’s box who looped a shot (perhaps unintentionally) over the flailing Carlo Nash.
For the rest of the first half, United used quick counter-attacks down both wings to great effect, with several crosses landing at the head or feet of Josh King, who played well in his target man role, but should have put two or three of his chances away.
Stoke started the second half as much the better side, bringing the physical play of their first team squad into this u21 game, bullying Michael Keane into making one or two small mistakes, and even found the net after 51 minutes when Abu-Bakarr Kargbo rounded Sam Johnstone and tapped the ball into the gaping goal, only to be ruled offside.
United had several chances to wrap the game up in the latter stages as Stoke pushed looking for an equalizer, but King headed straight at Nash, and Larnell Cole, who looked slightly out of sorts, punched a shot over the bar.
Alongside the win, Warren Joyce, and everyone connected with the club for that matter, will be most pleased about the performance of Darren Fletcher who, whilst looking far from his best, completed the whole game and dispensed valuable advice to the youngsters around him both during the game, and during breaks in play when he spent time coaching both Tyler Blackett and Josh King.
Team: Johnstone; M.Keane, Thorpe, Wootton, Blackett; Cole, Fletcher, Tunnicliffe, Petrucci (Fornasier 69), Lingard (Veseli 91); King (Lawrence 90). Subs not used: Gollini, Januzaj.
Scorer(s): Wootton (7)