Barclays Premier League Under-21s
Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Tuesday, 12 May 2015
Kick-off: 19:00 BST
Manchester United U21s took a giant step towards winning the league with a 4-0 mauling of neighbours Manchester City at Old Trafford.
A month to the day since the first team put four past City inside the same venue, the U21s moved to within one point of the title, thanks to goals from James Wilson, Adnan Januzaj and substitutes Ashley Fletcher and Matty Willock.
A bright start from City saw Jordy Hiwula’s pass to Ashley Smith-Brown bring about a smart turn from the latter, but his shot was tipped over the bar by Joel Pereira.
The difference in finishing then told, as Januzaj’s threaded through ball from his own half unleashed Wilson, beating the offside trap, taking two right foot touches to bare down on goal, before firing the ball with his favoured left foot into the bottom corner of the near post (Vine).
Aaron Nemane was becoming a real handful, seeing a shot blocked, a potential penalty claim waved away after Andy Kellett deemed to have barged him over, and a cross from the right hitting Tyler Blackett and out for a corner.
Wilson’s flicked header from a throw-in allowed Joe Rothwell to flick the ball through on goal, but Angus Gunn raced off his line, doing enough to put Rothwell off, as his shot with the outside of his foot fell wide of the goal.
It was number eight on number eight as Seko Fofana turned Liam Grimshaw, but his speculative shot from distance curled wide of Pereira’s goal.
George Evans found Kean Bryan, who took on a snap shot, which had to be turned behind for a corner by Pereira, who must have seen the ball late, as it seemed like a routine save when it was struck.
Evans himself then saw an ambitious effort fly well wide of the target.
Kellett was then played in by a superb through ball from Reece James, but his shot fell wide, when he might have played the ball across the goal instead, before Angelino dragged a shot wide at the other end, in the final action of the half.
A teasing free-kick from City’s left led to Smith-Brown failing to get a telling touch on the ball as Pereira cleared the ball with his outstretched foot.
United doubled the lead a minute later with Rothwell’s surging run forward finding Januzaj, who ran at the City defence before shifting inside onto his weaker right foot, and his shot took a nick off Evans, wrong-footing Gunn, making it 2-0 (Vine).
Patrick Vieira responded with two attacking changes inside five minutes, and the two subs combined with Jose Angel Pozo dinking the ball over Blackett and finding Jack Byrne, but his touch led to Pereira smothering the ball as he was about to get a clear shot away.
Januzaj’s inswinging corner nearly caught Gunn out, as he had to palm the ball away, but only as far as Wilson, but he could only head the rebound over the bar.
Bryan was booked for a nasty challenge on James, with everybody associated with United screaming for more than a yellow, including Warren Joyce, who is normally quite reserved on the touchline, which tells its own story of how bad the challenge was.
Byrne’s neat turn was followed by a wild shot that flew wide before United put the game to bed.
Weir’s through ball down the left-hand touchline found Wilson, who played an immaculate ball across the box to find Fletcher, whose first time finish was expertly placed to seal the victory (Vine).
Fletcher then turned provider as he played the ball to fellow substitute Willock on the edge of the area, and he made it 4-0, with his shot finding the back of the net via the post (Vine).
Byrne was booked for a foul on Weir, as the game drew to a close, with a resounding victory for the red half of Manchester.
City’s slim hopes of the title are now over, with United needing just a point away at City in their final game (to be arranged) to win the U21 Premier League.
Tom Thorpe at 22 was United’s oldest player in the squad, with the future seemingly looking bright, comfortably beating a side that has enjoyed some success at both U18 and U21 level this season.
One final match to clinch the trophy then, with Warren Joyce’s side very close to silverware, and away at City would be the perfect venue to seal the deal if the young Reds can pull it off.
The home campaign ends, and what a way to do so: Manchester United 4-0 Manchester City.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Love, Thorpe, Blackett, Kellett; Grimshaw, James, Rothwell (Willock 77); Weir, Wilson (El Fitouri 88), Januzaj (Fletcher 74).
Subs: Willock, O’Hara, Fletcher, El Fitouri, Reid.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Manchester City: Gunn; Smith-Brown (Byrne 60), Maffeo, Evans, Angelino; Garcia, Bryan, Fofana (Glendon 78); Nemane, Hiwula, Barker (Pozo 55).