Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division 1
Manchester United vs. Sunderland
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
Date: Monday, 25 January 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Manchester United U21s moved a step closer to reaching the summit of the Premier League, securing a narrow 1-0 victory over current table-toppers Sunderland.
Captain James Weir scored the only goal of the game midway through the second half, as the gap at the top cut to just three points, with substantial games in hand giving United an advantage in this season’s title race as things stand.
Six straight wins have helped to shape that, and this victory sees United complete the double over the Black Cats, and also claiming a 1-0 reverse back in October up on Wearside.
A quiet first half saw few clear cut chances, with Mikael Mandron slicing an effort wide for Sunderland.
Adnan Januzaj struck the near post directly from a corner before hitting the side netting after retrieving James Weir’s lobbed cross at the back post.
Will Keane was brought down by George Brady, in a challenge that saw the latter booked.
It was Keane who spread the play out to Januzaj with an immaculate pass, and the Belgian winger returned the favour with a pinpoint diagonal cross, which Keane controlled with his chest and volleyed an attempt which was held by Maksymilian Stryjek.
A much livelier second half began with Joe Riley’s dipping effort being held as Martin Smith was booked for a foul on Andreas Pereira.
Januzaj saw a shot held then struck a venomous attempt that was fumbled behind, before Keane also saw a shot saved after receiving a long diagonal ball from Joshua Harrop.
Then came the goal, as Matty Willock’s forward pass was touched into the path of Weir by Keane, and United’s number seven shifted onto his weaker foot before placing a neat finish to the left of Stryjek.
It was almost two immediately after, as Pereira’s burst and laid pass was struck by Weir, but he was denied a brace after Stryjek held the attempt.
He didn’t know much about it, but Donald Love somehow blocked Mandron’s effort that seemed harder to miss, after taking aim from Rees Greenwood’s cut back after keeper Joel Pereira ventured away from his goal-line.
Januzaj fired off target as Keane latched onto Pereira’s through ball, only to see his shot canon back off the onrushing Stryjek.
Full-time arrived with a huge three points obtained at the top of the table, where United closed the gap on tonight’s opponents to just three points, whilst still boasting three games in hand.
Sunderland showed glimpses of why they are where they are, but United also showed where they are in a rich vein of form, winning their past six games including this one.
This result also stretches their unbeaten home run at this level to 13 games, winning the past nine, and this spell will tick past one year, as the last home defeat came on February 2 last year, and United’s next home game arrives on February 8.
Before then, Warren Joyce’s side face a trip to Southport where they will take on Everton, looking to continue their impressive run of results.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Varela, Williams, Love, Riley; Willock, Harrop, Weir, A. Pereira, Januzaj (McTominay 90+3); Keane.
Subs: Rothwell, Henderson, Rashford, McTominay, El Fitouri.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Sunderland: Stryjek; Matthews, Brady, Beadling, T. Robson; E. Robson (Molyneux 80), Agnew; Lawson (Nelson 73), Smith, Greenwood; Mandron.
Subs: McEvoy, Talbot, Casey, Nelson, Molyneux.
Manager: Andy Welsh