Manchester United made it 3 wins from 3 games in the newly formed u21s league with an impressive and entertaining 4-2 victory over Newcastle United who had played 4, won 2, drawn 1 and lost 1.
United, in the now familiar 4-5-1/4-3-3 hybrid formation, had Nicky Butt helping Warren Joyce with training before the game in a role filled by both Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher for periods last season. Joyce started Sam Johnstone in goal behind a back four of Blackett, Fornasier, Thorpe and the out of position Larnell Cole. In midfield, first team mid-week debutants Ryan Tunnicliffe and Robbie Brady were joined by Jesse Lingard, whilst a fluid front three of Josh King, Davide Petrucci and Kiko Macheda topped off the line up. In truth, whilst Tunnicliffe was given the job of marshalling midfield, and Kiko led the line upfront, the other 4 were more or less interchangeable leading to attacking runs and chances for all of them.
United took the lead in the 14th minute after a wondrous tackle from Petrucci dispossessed one of Newcastle’s midfielders. Petrucci slid in, got the ball and turned towards Newcastle’s goal in one motion before playing an inch perfect through ball to Kiko Macheda who took it in stride and lashed a left-footed effort past Alnwick. Whilst the finish was impressive, the hustle and vision of Petrucci should be commended just as highly.
As good as that goal was, was as bad as the defending for Newcastle’s equalizer. A goal kick from Alnwick was allowed to fall to Inman in midfield without being challenged who then played an easy ball forward which was lashed beyond the reach of Sam Johnstone.
United hit back in the 32nd minute as Tunnicliffe played a ball forward to find Lingard on an angled run, who touched it on perfectly to Petrucci who had made a diagonal run across Newcastle’s back four from the opposite direction and stroked the ball home to restore the one goal lead.
Once again the lead was short-lived though as just four minutes later some nifty foot work from Inman in United’s box put him in past Tom Thorpe to slide the ball past Johnstone and level the scores once more.
Perhaps looking to reinforce the less than stellar defence, Joyce replaced Tyler Blackett with Freddie Veseli at half time and after the break it was United who started strongly, Josh King bullying the left side of their defence on numerous occasions, hitting the side netting and forcing a save from Newcastle’s shot stopper.
United’s pressure paid off in the 53rd minute as Larnell Cole hit a corner into the danger area, only for it to be cleared back out to him, allowing him to cross it in once again to Petrucci at the back post, who headed back towards goal allowing Macheda to nod in on the line for his second of the game.
That was to be Cole’s last meaningful contribution to proceedings as he was then subbed in the 69th minute to make way for debutant Angelo Henriquez. Whilst it’s difficult to judge him on 20 minutes worth of football, he looks to be an intelligent player, making good runs off the ball and supporting other attacks well – he also plays with a smile on his face which makes a nice change from Macheda.
Newcastle attempted to fight back once again, drawing two excellent saves from Sam Johnstone, the pick of which was a long swerving shot from outside the box that i was stood right behind and was heading for the top corner before Johnstone finger-tipped it round the post.
As Newcastle pushed forward looking for the equaliser, Henriquez kept up the pattern of every summer signing scoring on their home debut by extending United’s lead in the 90th minute after Josh King had once again driven at Newcastle’s defence and drawn their keeper, only to chip the ball exquisitely to the waiting Henriquez to head home into an empty net from close range.
Whilst a 4-2 result flatters United slightly given their defensive lapses of concentration, the contributions of Davide Petrucci and Josh King were a cut above anyone else on the pitch, and even Kiko Macheda looked interested in a reserve game for once.
The next match u21s match for United is Monday night away to Sunderland. United’s u18s play Sunderland at home this lunchtime and match reaction from that game will be available on RedMancunian.com later today.