The U21 squad has had a very mediocre last few matches. The last couple weeks have seen them draw with Everton, draw with Fulham, beat Carlisle, and draw with Liverpool. The team has been growing into itself and certainly looks better overall. But, the squad still has its shortcomings and needs to start finding a way to win matches. The team has yet to name a consistent starting 11, so perhaps things will get better with the transfer window closed. Hopefully the manager, Dempsey, will soon feel he has a more settled squad.
Manchester United‘s U21 currently sit 12th on 3 points.
United 2 Everton 2
Charlie McNeil and Charlie Savage both got the start in this match. Two of the more constant players in the squad thus far this season. United was put under pressure a majority of the match but went ahead 2-0. Marc Jurado put United ahead in the 11th minute with left footed strike after controlling the ball with his chest. The ball came in back across goal off of a header. Jurado did a terrific job to take the ball down and finish.
After being put under pressure after their first goal, Cody Mahu sent a long ball over the top from beyond the halfway line for Hansen Aaron. Hansen took the ball down off his chest and put United ahead 2-0 in the 27th minute. United faced a lot of pressure following their second goal and Tom Cannon would make them pay. The United keeper, Bishop, made several great saves throughout the match but Cannon scored two goals in 8 minutes just before halftime to equalize.
The second half finished scoreless and United found themselves under pressure more than desired. Dempsey said, “we went long too many times in the second half…lots to learn…delighted with the first 25 minutes” with regards to the game overall. He also went on to discuss how Everton overpowered the team physically and how his team must be better with the final ball. Dempsey wants his side to show more courage and play more through the midfield.
United 2 Fulham 2
Once again, the young lads found themselves in a 2-2 draw. Although this match was certainly much more entertaining than against Everton. United grabbed the equalizer in the 5th minute of stoppage time via Omari Nathan Forson. Omari also scored United’s first to bring them back level at 1-1 in the first half. United had gone down early in the 16th minute, but went into halftime at 1-1. The team proceeded to surrender an early second half goal in the 47th minute. This game was extremally tight.
All of the numbers, from the score line to possession show just how close this match was. Possession was split virtually right down the middle with United on 49%. Meanwhile both sides managed 14 shots. Once again much of United’s lineup was changed, with Charlie Savage seeming to be the most consistent notable figure in the side. Fulham currently sit 5th in the table on 9 points so this was a decent result considering the difference in table position.
United 2 Carlisle 1
Finally, United managed a win against lowly Carlisle in the group stage of the football league trophy. Omari Nathan Forson scored yet again, and McNeil also found the back of the net. But, just as in previous matches, this match was very even. Not only was it even by the numbers, but even with the eye test. It seemed either side could’ve won this match. United just showed more of the clinical ability, but this wasn’t a win to necessarily write home about.
Zidane Iqbal was back in the side and looked decent but was subbed off. Tom Huddlestone came on in the second half. Many may remember him from his time with Tottenham, Derby and Hull City. The Englishman was always known for scoring screamers. Huddlestone is finishing out his playing days with United as a player coach before moving into a permanent coaching role with the club.
Garnacho also returned to the U21 side for some much needed playing time. He grabbed an assist and looked an ever present threat from the left hand side. Garnacho is expected to play games for the U21 periodically throughout the season as he attempts to crack his way into United’s first team.
United got the win, that’s important, and they take 3 important points in the group stage.
United 2 Liverpool 2
Yet again, the Man United U21 manage a 2-2 draw in the league. This time away to the Scouse bastards of Liverpool. United went in at halftime down 1-0 but came out strong in the second half to equalize in the 49th minute by way of Hansen-Aaroen in the 49th minute. United stayed strong and took the lead in the 56th minute after a Charlie McNeil penalty. But the lead would not last long as Liverpool equalized just three minutes later. The goal was quite unfortunate though as it was off of a questionable penalty ruling, that Vitek would go on to save, but was put home off the rebound.
The possession stats were quite similar, but Liverpool were much more creative in the final third. Liverpool managed 21 shots and 11 on target. Vitek, the United goalkeeper, was under much pressure for the majority of the match. This was a decent outing from the young goalie to keep it at 2-2.
There were positives to take away from the match though. Garnacho and Charlie McNeil both looked very threatening throughout the match. And, the squad showed much more of a willingness to play through the midfield, as Dempsey had been calling for. Dempsey said, “We showed real character, to grab two goals and go 2-1 up…but we do silly things in the middle of the park…a silly challenge.” Dempsey also believed Liverpool finished much stronger than United, but he is pleased with the small bit of consistency forming in his side. He feels encouraged and is sure the wins will start coming.
The U21 side will face Leicester City on Friday September 9th. Leicester are currently 7th in the table, but a win for United would see them go just 1 point off the Foxes. The last couple weeks haven’t been the greatest for the U21 side, but the side is unbeaten in its last 4 matches. The manager and the players seem to be encouraged by the results and are growing into the season.