Manchester United reserves maintained their 100% record in the Manchester Senior Cup with a 4-0 victory over local rivals Bolton Wanderers at Moss Lane on Thursday evening. Nicky Ajose claimed a hat trick, but look no further than Captain Magnus Eikrem for the star of the show.
United started brightly in what turned out to be a rather forgettable first half. Within a minute Ajose (playing as a central striker) had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring when one on one with Bolton goalkeeper Rob Lainton , Cameron Stewart had a couple of long range efforts but failed to test Lainton. Robbie Brady had a goal disallowed after a through pass by Gabriel Obertan. The assistant referee adjudged the young Irishman to be offside – replays however showed the decision may have been incorrect. Sandwiched in between – centre forward Tom Eaves had Bolton’s best chance with a header that crept over the crossbar.
The less said about the first half the better – was a shocker!
During half time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a period to contemplate and as a consequence we saw a marked improvement – the contrast between the first and second half was quite staggering. United began the second half firmly on the front foot with their attacks full of vigour: Brady and Corry Evans brought a double save from Lainton as he parried the initial effort from Brady and the Northern Ireland International pouncing on the rebound; Stewart should have opening the scoring with a free header inside the penalty area from an Obertan (switched from his first central midfield role to the right wing) the cross, via a header Brady brought a further terrific save from Lainton and from the resultant corner Ajose hit the post when he really should have scored.
After a lull in proceedings United’s domination paid off when Ajose grabbed his first goal of the night on 62 minutes. The finish was smart – Ajose opened up his opened up his body allowing him to curl the effort around Lainton. Evans provided the assist with a nice little pass. Moments later United nearly made the score two when Eikrem hit the post after he somehow managed to make space for himself inside the penalty area. Eikrem’s influence on the game started to grow – he soon set Stewart through on goal, the young United winger belted the ball against the crossbar when the better option was an easy square ball to Ajose. Two minutes (66th) later Eikrem chipped a forward pass for Obertan to run onto. Whilst on the run the Frenchman brought the ball under control (via his head) and crossed for Ajose at the back post – 2-0 United! A well deserved score line. On 71 minutes Ole Gunnar made a double change with John Cofie & Ryan Tunnicliffe replacing Brady and Stewart.
On 78 minutes Ajose completed his hat-trick – controlling the ball with his chest he finished coolly whilst ignoring pressure from a Bolton defender. Who created the opportunity? Yeah, you guessed! That man Eikrem – a delightful pass from inside his own half. 3-0 United! Ajose now has five goals to his name this season leapfrogging Federico Macheda to be the leading goal scorer. Ajose was then replaced by Etzaz Hussain, who made his first reserve team appearance of the season.
Eikrem continued to weave his wand and set free Cofie – unbelievably the young striker over hit his effort, the ball sailed over the cross bar. I was gobsmacked, I sat open mouthed – John Cofie misses a chance? I wasn’t left disappointed for long – Cofie scored his now accustomed goal with virtually the last kick of the ball after party tricks involving Obertan, Eikrem, Tunnicliffe and Reece Brown.
The performance of Eikrem was a different class, a joy to watch and his passing a pure pleasure – countless inch perfect weighted passes. He could be a surprise package this season and if he continues this form Sir Alex will find difficult ignore. The clamour for Ozil springs to my mind. Throughout the last year Sir Alex has repeatedly backed the younger players at the club – in Eikrem and several others we are seeing why…
Starting XI: Devlin; Brown (R), Wootton, Gill, Fryers; Evans, Obertan, Eikrem, Brady; Stewart, Ajose.
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