Manchester United XI crashed to a surprise 2-1 defeat to Stalybridge Celtic, despite dominating the game.
The United XI (which was made up of the u21 league squad minus those out on international duty) started in the now familiar 4-5-1 formation with Kiko Macheda leading the team up front alone. Lingard and Cole provided the midfield width, while a central trio of Petrucci (c), Fletcher and Tunnicliffe combined well to provide support to Macheda, with any two of the three pushing forward in support for most attacks. A back four of Büttner, Thorpe, Michael Keane and Fornasier protected Sam Johnstone in goal.
United took the lead after 7 minutes with a Kiko Macheda glancing header from a corner. This was Macheda’s only positive contribution of note in what was a poor performance highlighting, once again, his ‘this kind of game is beneath me’ attitude whilst simultaneously failing to display any kind of evidence that this was the case. It was Macheda’s error that lead to Stalybridge’s equalizer after 20 minutes as he inexplicably passed the ball to Celtic’s Jamie Mullan who raced forward and played a perfectly weighted through-ball to Mitchell Austin. Austin controlled the ball in stride and fired a low shot at Johnstone, who managed to deflect the shot underneath his body but couldn’t stop it finding the net.
Before half time, United should have been 2-1 up when Jesse Lingard headed wide from 5 yards out and Petrucci set Macheda through on goal, only for the young italian to knock the ball wide when rounding the keeper and hit the side netting with his shot afterwards.
United dominated the rest of the first half, and the early parts of the second half. A high tempo pressing game from the 5 men in midfield left little time on the ball for Stalybridge and pressured them into mistakes and losses of possession. Most of the joy for the reds came from either wing with Larnell Cole effective down the right, and Büttner being encouraged by boss Warren Joyce to get forward at every opportunity. In truth, Büttner was the clear man of the match for United. He looks comfortable on the ball, has pace and a ‘swagger’ about him that set him apart from anyone else on the field tonight.
Despite my belief that Stalybridge would begin to tire as the game went on, United carved out very few chances in the last half an hour and were punished in the 72nd minute when a long ball forward caught every United midfielder ball-watching and landed at the feet of sub Dennis Sherriff who raced into the reds’ box and cooly slotted another low drive past Johnstone to give the home side a 2-1 lead. Although very much against the run of play, the finish was excellent.
Ryan Tunnicliffe, who was the subject of constant praise from Joyce for his work ethic, had the chance to even the score in the dying minutes when he was sent through on goal, but a open-footed side-foot shot spun just outside the far post for a goal kick.
Although only a friendly, it was clear to see that United lacked a top-class finisher tonight, and duly paid the price. The most pleasing aspects of the game were the interplay between our 5 midfielders, which was superb at times and Büttner’s performance as a whole, which he may well be called upon to reproduce for the first team in the not too distant future.
Team Sheet (credit @thisistheone99)