Barclays Premier League Under-21s
Manchester City vs. Manchester United
Venue: The City Football Academy, Etihad Campus
Date: Saturday, 23 May 2015
Kick-off: 13:00 BST
Manchester United’s campaign at U21 level drew to a close with a 3-1 defeat away at neighbours Manchester City.
Despite leading at half-time via Ashley Fletcher’s goal, a brace from Kelechi Iheanacho sandwiching Angelino’s strike gave the home side the three points.
After Chelsea’s defeat to West Ham United at the end of last week, United were already Champions heading into the game, and a guard of honour was produced from City for the away side.
Captain Tom Thorpe headed over from Reece James’ corner in the second minute before Olivier Ntcham then saw a shot deflected wide at the other end before the game went into a bit of a lull.
Fletcher’s strike from a tight angle went over the bar before Ben Pearson – featuring for the U21s for the first time since December due to his loan spell at Barnsley – was booked for kicking the ball away, on the back of consecutive nudges and an earlier challenge in the opening exchanges.
Iheanacho had been subdued for much of the game, but he saw a shot held by debutant Kieran O’Hara.
The deadlock was broken on the stroke of half-time after a neat one-two between Andy Kellett and Joe Rothwell allowed the former to leave Jack Byrne on the deck with a smart drag-back, and his low cross was turned home by Fletcher, making it three goals in consecutive games for the number nine.
It was City who made all the in-roads after the break, and they were rewarded 10 minutes in, with Iheanacho beating Thorpe to the ball, before skipping past the challenge of Donald Love and calmly slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Brandon Barker then saw a curling shot fall wide of the post before Iheanacho saw a deflected shot fall kindly into the hands of O’Hara.
Barker was involved again as he teed up Angelino to cross to the back post, but Byrne’s poor header went over the bar without troubling.
Iheanacho cut inside, and his powerful shot was tipped behind for a corner.
The corner then led to City taking the lead, with the short routine allowing Angelino to get a shot away, and it flicked off Love and found its way past O’Hara, who, amongst the melee of bodies inside the penalty area, saw the ball too late to prevent the goal.
Substitute Callum Gribbin, another U21 debutant, played a one-two with Pearson before dribbling his way past a few City defenders, but he leant back when he had sight of goal and curled the ball off target.
The resulting goal-kick was headed on by Iheanacho to Ntcham, whose heavy touch allowed the former to latch onto the loose ball, before shifting onto his left foot, and firing the ball into the bottom corner.
Into stoppage time and Barker found Iheanacho, but his shot was blocked behind for a corner by substitute RoShaun Williams, before Barker himself saw a shot well-saved by O’Hara.
The game ended with a disappointing result, but Warren Joyce’s side can be proud of their efforts this season, lifting the title and making it four titles in five years.
It was a makeshift side, with players like James Wilson, Adnan Januzaj, Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett in the first team squad for Sunday’s final game at Hull City, with Joyce giving a number of players a run out against a City side who had played twice since United last did so, with the hosts having the advantage of match fitness.
The first team met the objective of returning to the top four, the U18s reached the final phase of their season, just falling short in their final two games and the U21s winning their title makes for good reading ahead of next season.
Manchester United: O’Hara; Reid (Williams 69), Love, Thorpe, Kellett (Harrop 46); Pearson, James; Willock, Rothwell (Gribbin 16), Goss; Fletcher.
Subs: Harrop, Henderson, El Fitouri, Williams, Gribbin.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Manchester City: Gunn; Maffeo, Humphreys, Evans, Angelino; Barker, Glendon (Horsfield 82), Byrne (Garcia 76), Ntcham; Pozo (Nemane 46), Iheanacho.
Subs: O’Brien, Horsfield, Garcia, Nemane, Intima.
Manager: Patrick Vieira