The Manchester United U21s have grabbed 1 win and 3 draws in their last 4 matches. This season has not gone to plan for the young lads, but things do seem to be improving overall. The team is consistently winning the possession battle and showing they have a good team spirit. United grabbed a goal in the final 10 minutes of regulation or later in everyone of their last 4 matches. Those goals either equalized or gave United the lead. There are some clear problems with the young squad still but their performances are much better than they were early in the season. United U21s sit on 9 points in 11th place currently.
United 3 Brighton 3 (10/8)
Bjorn Hardley would grab a header off a Shoretire cross in the 83 minute to rescue a point for United in this match. United should’ve never let the game come down to the final minutes though. The squad won the possession battle 58% to 42% and had 32 shots compared to Brighton’s 13. United peppered the Brighton goal for a majority of the match, but it was Brighton who almost scored in the first few minutes.
United goal keeper Vitek had a series of outstanding saves to keep the match level. Then Mainoo would score the opener off a flicked on header for United. But the first half would end at 1-1. Into the second half Vitek continued to make great saves but Brighton’s second goal came from a slow bouncing ball on a scuffed shot that Vitek should’ve saved. Thankfully once again Mainoo would score off a corner kick and put United back on level terms.
But, Vitek would make another crucial error when he attempted to come way too far out from his goal and missed his clearance. Thus, Brighton’s Ferguson had an empty net to shoot at and put Brighton back up at 3-2. Finally in the 83 minute Hardley would grab that equalizer off a Shoretire cross.
United 3 Chelsea 3 (10/15)
Once again, United’s U21s find themselves finishing another match level. The offensive side of the ball seems to doing just fine overall, but there is little to no cohesiveness in the defense. United took the possession battle at 63% but were outshot by Chelsea 17-11. Dempsey decided to stick Shole Shoretire at number 9 for this one and McNeil retired to the bench. The move would prove beneficial by the end of the match.
United went up 1-0 in the first half after Mainoo won a pk for United on some fancy footwork leading to him going down in the box. Despite this, Dempsey decided to bring McNeil on at halftime. This almost proved an instant impact when McNeil had a goal ruled out for being fractionally offside. Chelsea would then draw level against the run of play and build on that by piling on the pressure for a majority of the second half there after. Chelsea would go up 3-1 in the 81 minute. But, in the 90′ Chelsea goal scorer Casadei would see red and be sent off. Shoretire would then score 2 goals in the final minute of stoppage time, both only 30 seconds apart, earning United a point.
After the match Mark Dempsey said, “First half. Best performance of any United team away this season…should’ve been 3 or 4 ahead”. The match put United’s ‘never give in’ mentality on full display, but left fans once again unimpressed. Shola Shoretire put in a man of the match performance and his performances in recent weeks warrant a look from Eric ten Hag.
United 2 (4) Fleetwood Town 2 (5) (10/18) Football League
The good news of this result was that United had already qualified form the group stage in the Football League Trophy. But, United put in a decent performance nevertheless and without the likes of Garnacho and Pellistri. Charlie McNeil and Shola Shoretire found the back of the net in this one. The possession battle went in favor of United with 60% but they were outshot 16 to 11.
United were up 1-0 by halftime after Forson won a penalty that McNeil finished off. But, Fleetwood scored two goals in 5 minutes in the second half forcing United to search for an equalizer. Shoretire would be the one yet again to grab the equalizer with a goal in stoppage time off an incisive pass from Tom Hiddleston. The match then went to penalties where United missed twice. After scoring the all important equalizer, Shoretire was the one to miss the crucial penalty in the shootout.
United 3 Wolves 2 (10/22)
Oh finally! United get a win and provide some highlights worth watching. Hugill, Shoretire, and Jurado would all score in the second half to give United the 3-2 win. United battled back from going down one twice in the second half. Despite his pk miss in the previous match, Shola Shoretire continue to score and put in impressive performances.
Neither side had too many honest chances in the first half, but the second half would produce 5 goals in total. United would go behind twice in the second half behind goals from Wolve’s Griffiths and Hudnett. United were able to capitalize on two defensive mistakes to score their first two goals of the second half. Then in the 88th minute Marc Jurado put home a loose ball from the edge of the box to give United all 3 points.
The match may not have been the most glamorous of performances but it was a nice result for a team in dire need of positive results.
United will next host Sparta Praha in the Premier League International Cup group stage on October 26th. Then just 3 days later on the 29th United travel to Tottenham for Premier league 2 action. Hopefully the young lads can build on the win over Wolves and put together a nice unbeaten run. Sitting in 11th place United need to start winning matches desperately.
Overall, the last 4 matches have been uninspiring for the U21s. The performances are better, but the team needs to start winning matches. Restoring United’s winning culture in the first team begins with improving the culture at every level of the club. Many of these players will see themselves earning call ups to the first team. The players need to come together and put together more consistent performances.
It is important to note that United’s Academy aren’t concerned with results as much as performances. The youth team is to be a developing period for players, so the squad is almost constantly rotating. According to Manchester Evening News the average age United puts out is 18.4 years old compared to an average age of 20.1 for their opponents. Also Garncacho, Iqbal, and Pellistri play rarely if ever for the U21s and other major players from last season have been sent out on loan. Certainly it’s no time to panic in the academy but results do need to start coming.
Mark Dempsey will have his work cut out for him.