Barclays Premier League Under-18s
Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers
Venue: Aon Training Complex
Date: Saturday, 28 November 2015
Kick-off: 11:00 GMT
Manchester United U18s lost for the sixth straight game, losing 2-0 to northwest rivals Blackburn Rovers at the Aon training Complex.
Stefan Mols opened the scoring before two second half penalties helped shape the final outcome of the game.
Just after the hour mark and Callum Gribbin saw his spot-kick saved, before Joe Rankin-Costello made no mistake with his at the other end with a little more than 10 minutes to go, to seal the points for the visitors.
The first chance of the game fell United’s way after Rankin-Costello brought down Gribbin in a dangerous position, but the latter’s free-kick flew over the bar without troubling.
It was a case of déjà vu as another foul by Rankin-Costello, this time on Ethan Hamilton, led to another dead ball situation, with Gribbin going closer on this occasion, but still firing his free-kick over the bar.
Tosin Kehinde dragged a shot wide before a neat move ended with a one-two between Gribbin and Indy Boonen, but Gribbin’s curled effort was well-saved low to his right by Andrew Fisher.
Having seen very little of Blackburn to that point, they then took the lead against the run of play.
Hamilton brought down Tre Pemberton, and Mason Fawns floated a free-kick into the penalty area, which Mols dually obliged to head home, to give Rovers the lead.
Fawns himself sliced a shot wide before his tame effort was held by Ollie Byrne, before Rankin-Costello picked up a deserved booking, for sticking a leg out off the ball towards Hamilton.
The wind played havoc with proceedings, and Gribbin’s free-kick that searched for a United shirt was carried straight into the arms of Fisher via the strong gale, as half-time arrived with Paul McGuinness’ side trailing.
A quiet start to the second half was altered when Ramirez Howarth curled a shot wide, but his captain Josh Askew was arguably better positioned on the overlap.
Boonen fed Hamilton on the left-hand side, but his dragged shot across goal fell wide.
Then came United’s penalty, with Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s cross striking the arm of a Blackburn defender, but Fisher stopped Gribbin’s kick at the first time of asking, before collecting the loose ball from the rebound.
Fawns struck the outside of the post with an attempt from range before Mols saw a shot held.
Mols was then cautioned for bringing down Gribbin, but for the third time in the match, Gribbin struck his free-kick over the bar.
Byrne was called into action, preventing Fawns from scoring by turning his shot behind for a corner.
As the ball landed at the feet of Rankin-Costello after the deep delivery from the resulting corner, his cross saw Joel Steer’s touch fall to Fawns, but he was again denied by Byrne.
However, it was this corner that led to Blackburn’s penalty, after RoShaun Williams was penalised for a shirt pull, and Rankin-Costello made no mistake to double their lead.
Jan Pirretas ventured forward from the back and saw an effort deflected wide with Rankin-Costello teeing up Fawns from a free-kick, but his shot was held by Byrne.
A breakaway move from Blackburn ended with Howarth shooting wide, as a stoppage time booking for substitute Brad Lynch was the final action of the game, with United losing for a sixth straight time.
With many injuries to the first team, the likes of Axel Tuanzebe and Marcus Rashford have been called up to the senior side in recent weeks, disrupted the team selection for Paul McGuinness, whilst depriving the U18s of two of their more established players at this level.
Wednesday’s UEFA Youth League fixture against PSV Eindhoven played its part too, with Zach Dearnley withdrawn with a hamstring injury, another player who would have played his part against Blackburn if fit, as well as causing fatigue within the young squad.
Trips to Wolverhampton Wanderers and the derby against Manchester City have been postponed for the coming weeks, meaning that the next league game sees the U18s host Middlesbrough on December 19.
A third round FA Youth Cup tie at home to Queens Park Rangers is scheduled to be played before then, with a date to be confirmed, where United will be looking to bounce back from a poor run of form.
Manchester United: Byrne; Fosu-Mensah, Williams, Dunne, Hamilton; Whelan, Kehinde; Boonen, Gribbin, Kenyon (Makela 81); Diedrick-Roberts (Sang 61).
Subs: Sang, Dorrington, Makela, Thompson, Tanner.
Manager: Paul McGuiness
Blackburn: Fisher; Pirretas, Makinson, Magloire, Askew; Rankin-Costello, Mols; Pemberton, Fawns, Howarth; Steer (Lynch 81).
Subs: Buckley, Ascroft, Lynch, Whalley, Jones.
Manager: Billy Barr