Manchester United reserves kicked off their league campaign against Aston Villa in a repeat of last season’s reserve team final at Moss Lane in Altringham on Thursday evening. The much criticised Bebé made his first appearance in a United shirt and saw the return of Gabriel Obertan after the Frenchman picked up an injury during the pre-season tour of North America. However, it was Villa’s Barry Bannan who stole the show with an impressive all round performance that saw the Scottish U21 International grab a hat-trick.
Bebé impressed with his pace, power and especially his crossing. The young Portuguese winger whipped in several dangerous crosses – a nightmare for defenders to deal with, but with Will Keane and Obertan playing as a sole striker United lacked numbers in the penalty area to benefit from Bebé’s work.
After the final whistle sections of the media continued their campaign to belittle Bebé – apparently classing him as a flop. I have not read the articles and I have no intention to either. Their continual snipes directed at Bebé are clearly an indirect dig at Sir Alex Ferguson in my opinion. He is by no means the finished article; the description of him being raw is a fair one, he definitely has the basic tools to make him a real asset for the cub, but the criticism he has received is unfair.
The game started brightly with both teams enjoying early possession leading to an opportunity for Ravel Morrison (Bebé supplying the cross) brought a save from Villa goalkeeper Elliott Parish. Villa soon opened the scoring with the excellent Bannan converting a quite superb free kick from the edge of the penalty, after a foul from central defender Reece Brown. United responded well enjoying periods of possession, but the fairly open start continued with Moustapha Salifou coming close for Villa then a minute later Morrison hit the inside of the post with an effort from just outside the penalty area.
Around the twenty minute mark Villa began to dominate midfield via the power of Jonathan Hogg & Isaiah Osbourne and a greater creativity influence coming from Bannan – he came close with a stunning volley and then kissed the cross bar with a long range effort after Obertan lost possession attempting to dribble his way out of danger. Villa’s dominance soon paid off when on thirty seven minutes Ciaran Clark made the score 2-0. A deep corner from the right passed those in the penalty area and found Bannan on the left. He whipped in a cross, the flight of the delivery was misjudged by Oliver Gill – Clark superbly controlled the ball and finished with a crisp shot. Sam Johnstone perhaps could have remained big for longer, though I may be overly harsh? Six minutes Bannan grabbed his second and Villa’s third with the most delightful chip from the corner of United’s penalty.
United improved during the second half, enjoying the greater share of possession and were often on the front foot, but without really testing Parish. Keane was replaced by Robbie Brady at half time, which meant Obertan switched to a central forward role. Scott Wootton came the nearest to scoring United’s first soon after the break, but his effort hit the post when it was harder to miss than score. Brady and especially Bebé supplied several crosses from the wing, but the team lacked numbers in the penalty area – Obertan often finding himself alone in the penalty area.
On seventy three minutes Nicky Ajose replaced Morrison, allowing Brady to switch inside. Ajose made an immediate impact grabbing his second goal of the season – from a corner (he had earned) he drifted off the back post where he was unmarked and finished with his left foot. The goal sparked Villa into life – Bannon hit a stunning long range half volley with the outside of his foot which Johnstone finger tipped onto the crossbar. The United goalkeeper went on to make a further fine save when England U21 International Nathan Delfouneso had a one on one opportunity. United continued to push forward to the last, however they were to concede a late goal thanks to a quick counter attack. Brady lost possession on the edge of Villa’s penalty area; The Villans surged forward and were awarded a penalty when Delfouneso was recklessly challenged by Gill in the penalty area. Bannan converted the penalty to complete his hat-trick and seal a 4-1 victory for Villa. Bannan is a player of some quality; he will surely feature for Aston Villa this season – a player worth keeping an eye on.
United’s Starting XI: Sam Johnstone; Scott Wootton, Reece Brown, Oliver Gill, Ritchie De Laet; Ravel Morrison, Magnus Eikrem, Corry Evans, Bebé; Will Keane, Gabriel Obertan.
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