By Bryan Waters.
Manchester United’s U18s grabbed a hard-fought three points with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Carrington. Paul McGuinness’ side were in debt of Blues defender Nortei Nortey, who scored a bizarre own goal to give the young Reds all three points in very pleasant conditions.
Nortey, who was introduced as a second-half substitute, was rushed into a back pass by United substitute Sam Byrne. The right-back slid the ball back to goalkeeper Ben Killip, but the ball bobbled into the goal and gave United the win with eight minutes left.
Chelsea are regarded as having a fantastic youth set-up, but after today’s result, find themselves on a poor streak of five league defeats. United were cautious of the Blues’ talent and the first half saw few chances, indicative of the whole contest as a cagey approach was evident from both sides.
The best attempt of the first half fell for Chelsea captain Alex Davey. His splendid effort flew just wide of Jonny Sutherland’s goal, an attempt which had the United goalkeeper scrambling.
McGuinness made two changes at the start of the second half that helped the Red Devils find some rhythm with Jack Barmby playing in an unfamiliar left-back position. Byrne was presented with a one-on-one opportunity soon after being introduced, but found Killip in his way, who made a good stop.
United pressured their counterparts further up the field in the second half and were presented with several opportunities. Joe Rothwell found himself through in similar circumstances to Byrne, but a good defensive block prevented his chance.
Andreas Pereira, Rothwell’s replacement with 25 minutes to go, was bright and lively and delivered a good cross, which Byrne stretched to meet and agonisingly hit the post. Byrne had plenty of opportunities throughout but failed to execute, with another attempt squandered, which would have sealed the game after United had scored.
Late Chelsea pressure, which saw midfielder George Cole drive an effort wide of the mark, made for a nervy final minutes for United. The result keeps McGuinness’ side third in the Group 2 table and is their first clean sheet since a 1-0 win over Reading in February.
Man of the Match: Ben Pearson – Chelsea’s skilful play was well marshalled by the United captain, who has been one of the better players all season for the U18s.
United: Sutherland, Love, McNair, Grimshaw, Evans (Barmby 46). Weir, Pearson, Rothwell (A. Pereira 66), Rudge. Daehli, Wilson (Byrne 46). (Subs: J. Pereira, Ioannou)
Latest Manchester United U18s statistics HERE.
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