Manchester United 4 Bolton Wanderers 1
United’s Under-21s secured what was, eventually, a comfortable victory over Bolton at the Salford City Stadium. Although Will Keane marked his return from a lengthy injury with a goal, and Jesse Lingard grabbed a fine brace, there was no doubt about the star of the show: Adnan Januzaj demonstrated exactly why he’s knocking on the door of the first team with a masterclass of craft, vision and technique. Despite a quiet start, with the young Belgian too often stuck out in non-threatening positions on the right wing, Januzaj increasingly got into and then ran the game and, after a sluggish beginning, United too gradually took control and overpowered what had, in the first half, looked stubborn and occasionally threatening opposition.
Indeed, it was Bolton who took the lead in the first half through Wilkinson, and before that they’d almost gone ahead with a penalty, Ben Amos parrying Youngs’ weak effort from the spot to keep United on level terms. Bolton had looked dangerous on the break and, despite United’s possession, had too often been allowed to exploit gaps in the Reds’ midfield, but United managed to go in level at half-time when Will Keane struck with an opportunist effort from close range following a wild shot from Larnell Cole. It was a sweet moment for a player who’d looked on the verge of the senior side at the end of the 2011-12 season but who’d had 2012-13 completely wiped out due to injury.
After the break, United assumed control and played some terrific football. Januzaj was the principal architect, producing penetrating passes and glorious touches throughout the half, but he was supported in particular by some fine overlapping play from Varela and the consistently menacing Jesse Lingard. The second half was only five minutes old when Lingard side-footed United into the lead following a superb interchange of passes with Tyler Blackett and he would grab United’s fourth too, with a fine solo goal: after forcing an error in the Bolton defence, Lingard took the ball on himself and fired a fine low shot passed Lynch to round off victory for the Reds. In between, Januzaj had delivered a left-footed free kick that Van Persie or Giggs would have been proud of, finding the head of Tom Thorpe who glanced the ball home.
Despite the convincing victory, Warren Joyce won’t need reminding of how easily our opponents found space in the middle of the park in the first half, something that was all too reminiscent of the problems caused by Liverpool in the first game of the season. Charni worked gamely to cover ground but there’s a real need for Ben Pearson to return and add some steel in central midfield. Other than that, the evening was all about positives, with United securing our second victory of the season in some style, featuring a major role again for our emerging Belgian master.