By Nathan Youd.
Manchester United U18s defeated table-topping Fulham in a highly entertaining encounter at Carrington.
Two goals from Sam Byrne and one from substitute James Wilson secured victory for Paul McGuinness’ team, with Patrick Roberts replying for the visitors.
The Fulham side arrived at Carrington in a rich vein of form, with a strike partnership between Muamer Tankovic and Moussa Dembele that had heralded 23 goals so far this season. But the United defence marshaled the pair well to secure three very valuable points.
United suffered a scare after just two minutes. Maumer Tankovic found space in the box before cutting back to Dembele, but Ioannou’s crucial challenge averted the danger.
Five minutes later, it was United’s turn to attack as Jack Barmby stung the palms of Rodack from the edge of the area.
Fulham were looking the more likely side to open the scoring, as Tankovic twice spurned good chances.
But it was United who stunned the away side with a five-minute double-salvo to take a foothold in the game.
Firstly, Grimshaw drove past two defenders into the area before floating the ball into the box. Joe Rothwell saw his header superbly saved by Rodack, but Sam Byrne showed great strikers instinct to poke home the rebound.
Then five minutes later, Jack Barmby pressed well up field and dispossessed Passley before feeding Byrne who finished brilliantly across the goalkeeper into the bottom corner.
Fulham almost responded soon after, but Liam Donnelly couldn’t hit the target from three yards out.
Five minutes before half time, Byrne threatened to claim his hat trick, but Rodack saved his snapshot acrobatically.
Rothwell and Ben Pearson also went close for United before Gollini made a fantastic double save moments later. Firstly, the Italian palmed away Tankovic’s free kick, before tipping Dembele’s header from the resulting corner over the bar.
But the resistance was broken just seconds before the break as Fulham got the goal their play deserved. George Williams’ smart work found Patrick Roberts in the box, and the midfielder made no mistake to score his seventh goal of the season.
Half time: Manchester United U18s 2-1 Fulham U18s
Joshua Harrop replaced Callum Evans at half time for United, whilst Jordan Evans replaced Tom Richards for the visitors.
Twenty seconds into the second half, Byrne should have had his hat-trick. Barmby flicked the ball over to the onrushing forward, but he fire high over the bar.
Dembele almost leveled the scores after 52 minutes, but he could only poke the ball wide from a tight angle.
Most of the play was taking place in the middle of the park, as both teams looked for the crucial first goal of the second half.
Fulham went close with twenty minutes to go as George Williams fired wide from 18 yards.
Minutes later, Hyndman forced a brilliant diving save from Gollini as his shot looked to creep in at the far post.
From the resulting corner, Donnelly headed over when it was easier to hit the target than miss.
James Wilson made his return off the bench for United, replacing the impressive Sam Byrne, and denying him a chance of a hat-trick.
Fulham almost equalised in controversial circumstances with two minutes remaining.
Nicholas Ioannou shepherded the ball away for what he thought was a goal kick. The linesman bizarrely awarded a corner to the away side, from which Jack Rudge brilliantly cleared a header off the line to keep United’s lead intact.
And United put the icing on the cake with the last kick of the game to take all three points.
Joshua Harrop burst down the right hand side into the box before finding Jack Barmby. The winger struck the ball across and Rodack could only palm the ball into the patch of James Wilson who tapped home his 14th of the season to secure the victory.
Full time: Manchester United U18s 3-1 Fulham U18s
Manchester United Starting XI: Gollini; Evans, Grimshaw, Dalley, Ioannou; Weir, Pearson, Rothwell, Barmby, Rudge; Byrne.