Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division One
Manchester City vs. Manchester United
Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: Saturday, 20 February 2016
Kick-off: 13:00 GMT
Manchester United U21s failed to make it a double over neighbours Manchester City, losing 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
It was the same scoreline that United won the reverse fixture by just nine days ago, with Ashley Smith-Brown’s first half strike enough to settle the outcome.
Less than five minutes in and Joe Rothwell’s free-kick was parried behind for a corner, which resulted in the ball finding James Weir, whose shot was cleared off the line.
Rodney Kongolo curled a low shot towards the bottom corner only for Joel Pereira to tip the ball behind.
Left-back Smith-Brown was allowed to wander inside, and his low shot from the edge of the area found its way into the back of the net.
Angelino’s cross was headed over by Isaac Buckley with Matty Willock’s attempt held by Angus Gunn at the other end as half-time arrived at the Etihad.
City maintained their good spell after the restart with Isaac Buckley’s powerful effort parried by Pereira before Sinan Bytyqi’s shot fell just wide.
A congested melee led to Weir spreading the play to Marcus Rashford, who manoeuvred room for himself, and his low shot from an angle struck the left boot of keeper Gunn with the ball just evading Will Keane on the rebound.
United continued their improved period with Weir somehow failing to connect with Rashford’s delightful cross as Rothwell cut inside before dragging a weaker foot shot wide of the target.
Substitute Lukas Nmecha couldn’t divert his shot off-balance towards goal as Angelino sliced wide when he perhaps should have crossed the ball for Buckley in the middle.
Full-time arrived and although you could make a case for saying it was harsh on United, a narrow City win was probably fair on the afternoon.
That’s not to fault the determination of the U21s, where Warren Joyce had Slim Pickens to choose from with many first team injuries, games, and an U18 fixture taking place on the same day meaning usual candidates for this fixture were needed elsewhere.
A Lancashire Senior Cup quarter-final away at Blackpool this Wednesday awaits, with a trip to the North East to take on Middlesbrough up next in the league a week on Monday.
Sticking with the North East, United remain two points clear of nearest challengers Sunderland but have now played the same number of games as the Black Cats.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; El Fitouri, Williams, Fosu-Mensah, Riley; Redmond, Willock; Weir, Rothwell (Mitchell 75), Rashford; Keane (McTominay 67).
Subs: McTominay, Dorrington, Mitchell, Rathbone, Doherty.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Manchester City: Gunn; Horsfield, Plummer, Bryan, Smith-Brown; Kongolo (Tattum 59), Glendon, Bytyqi; Nemane (Nmecha 46), Buckley, Angelino.
Subs: Taatum, Albinson, Oliver, Patching, Nmecha.
Manager: Simon Davies