By Barry McEvoy
Manchester United were never going to have it easy in this game, with Liverpool on a mission to the pip their city rivals Everton to first in the group. Paul McGuinness also had to take the second leg of the FA Youth Cup tie against Chelsea on Wednesday into consideration whilst picking the team to face Liverpool. McGuinness’ side had beaten Liverpool in the last round of the competition to set up the fixture against Chelsea. If this game had half the action the last meeting between the two sides had, it would have been a cracker.
A heavily depleted United squad, including seven under-16s, travelled to the Liverpool Academy. Joe Coll started in goals for his sixth appearance of the season. There was a mix of experience and new blood in the back four with Jack Rudge starting for only the second time this season, whilst Matt Wilkinson made his debut at centre-back alongside seasoned campaigner Michele Fornasier and Séan McGinty started at left-back. Tom Lawrence started on the right wing for United with James Wilson on the opposite wing and Joe Rothwell played alongside Charni Ekangamene in the centre. Mats Moller Daehli and Rafael Leao were the starting strikers for McGuinness’ side.
Liverpool were missing some starlets of their own in this game, though. Suso, Coady and Robinson some of the more noticable omissions. Stephens played in goals, but he had very little to do, in truth. Liverpool’s back-line consisted of Rafferty at right-back, Sama and McGivern in the centre of defence and Smith out on the left. One of the most promising young talents in the Liverpool Academy, Raheem Sterling started on the right-wing, the centre-midfielders were Roddan and Hatch, whilst Toni Silva played on the left. Adorjan and the extremely in-form Morgan started up top for the Merseysiders, with Adorjan playing somewhat deeper than his striking colleague. Morgan scored at least one goal in every one of his last twelve games, so he was always going to be a danger to the United goal.
United applied pressure from the off with James Wilson having a long range effort, looking to continue his goalscoring form after he chipped in with four goals for the u-16s last week in their 7-1 victory over Leeds United. Liverpool showed their attacking prowess on the wings, as Toni Silva easily dispossessed Séan McGinty and played the ball across the field to Raheem Sterling who felt the wrath of a strong challenge from Jack Rudge. Silva continued to be a menace to the United defence as Wilson was forced to sit back and help out McGinty on the left-wing for United, where he did well to win the ball off the Portuguese winger. There was a lot of pressure being heaped on the visitors as Sterling became Liverpool’s focal point of attack, United’s midfielders had to sit deeper and help out the defence, with Charni Ekangamene putting in some impressive challenges.
Liverpool continued to lump the ball forward to their wingers, although United adopted that particular form of attack quite a few times throughout the course of the game. Tom Lawrence seemed to be the only United player that was able to get at the Liverpool defence, often running past a player or two, but then to be found with no support and eventually losing possession. Fifteen year-old Wilson did his best to get forward, but he was inevitably out-muscled by the strong defenders, despite showing some good technique on the ball. The young United side enjoyed some nice spells of possession, but they just ran out of ideas when it came to scoring. An excellent cross-field ball from Ekangamene found Wilson who layed it off to Lawrence for an over the top pass towards Leao, but it was intercepted by Liverpool goalkeeper, Stephens. The balance of played shifted in favour of the home side and teir two young wingers began to impose themselves on the game, with the added help of the impressive Adorjan.
The break-through was made in the 40th minute. A Liverpool corner fell to Silva at the back post who showed excellent technique in taking it over McGinty’s head, then taking it the other way on the ground, causing the young Irishman to fall and Silve proceeded to slide it in the far corner. United were spurred on by this and their initial reaction was to get forward and Lawrence came close with a thirty-five yard strike well saved by Stephens, who pushed it out for a corner. Lawrence put in a good ball, which was met by the head of Michele Fornasier, but unfortunately it just hit the outside of the post and went wide. Silva dealt a hammer-blow to United when he ran through the centre of the field, skipped past Ekangamene, continued his run unopposed, and finished it with a well-placed shot into the bottom corner. It would be difficult to argue against that scoreline, it has to be said. Liverpool were good value for the lead.
Straight from the start of the second half Liverpool got forward and Sterling forced a decent save from the United ‘keeper. Silva was replaced by N’goo. The Merseysiders showed that they can defend, too as McGiveron put in an inch-perfect tackle on Lawrence after he was set on his way with a pass from Daehli. Some good inter-play on the left-wing between Smith and Sterling created an opportunity for the full-back to get a shot off, but he wasted it with a tame effort. Rowley and Thorpe on, Fornasier and McGinty off. Rowley got involved in the action straight away as he put in a good ball for Rafael Leao, who miscontrolled it, which led to a long-range effort from Rothwell that he’d want to forget. Liverpool started to turn the screw a bit after that and they won a corner, from Sterling again. Adorjan put in a decent ball, cleared by Tom Thorpe and after a lot of ricocheting Roddan put in an exquisite ball towards Morgan, which he duly tapped in on 67 minutes to continue his amazing run of goals.
Things were going from bad to worse for Paul McGuinness when it seemed that Ekangamene was after taking a knock and had to be replaced by Pearson. The inexperienced United side showed another glimpse on defensive ineptness when Adorjan was left completely unmarked in the box and he turned to fire it home to make it 4-0 to Liverpool on 74 minutes. A simple ball over the top from Rafferty was the next problem United faced when Sterling and N’goo were left two-on-two against Thorpe and Wilkinson. After some neat passing between the two, N’goo put the ball in the bottom corner with a technique that’s very difficult to master. Jack Rudge still wanted to pull out some party tricks as he nutmegged Smith and played it to Pearson, and he returned to favour by passing it back to Rudge, but the ball trickled out for a goal-kick. N’goo added insult to injury when he scored again to make it 6-0 after a defence splitting pass from Roddan. Thankfully, that was the end of it and there was little chance of a seventh.
Whilst no one expected a win with the team that played, 6-0 was a bit harsher than what most would have predicted before the game. No complaints, though. Liverpool were the better team. Liverpool looked like they could score with every attack, and united were the opposite. There was a huge lack of ideas in the midfield, often just reverting to giving the ball to Lawrence and letting him run it. Despite the score-line, I was impressed by Wilson, Wilkinson and at times Lawrence and Daehli. I don’t see the point at all in playing Leao in a striking role when he’s clearly not comfortable there, he doesn’t have the touch or technique to be a striker, he was caught needlessly offside quite a few times too.
Team: Coll; Rudge, Fornasier (Thorpe 61′), Wilkinson, McGinty (Rowley 61′); Lawrence, Ekangamene (Pearson 72′), Rothwell, Wilson; Daehli, Leao.
Substitutes: Thorpe, Sutherland, M. Keane, Rowley, Pearson.
Liverpool 6-0 United
Silva 40′, 45′
N’goo 77′, 84’
Academy Team Stats for 2010-11 season: Academy Team Stats