Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division 1
Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United
Venue: Victoria Park
Date: Monday, 29 February 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Manchester United came from behind to secure a 2-1 win away at Middlesbrough at U21 level.
Despite Callum Cooke’s second half finish, Andreas Pereira’s penalty got United back on level terms, a decision that also saw Boro captain Jonathan Burn sent off for.
Substitute Nathan McGinley was helpless as James Weir’s cross was turned home by the defender, in what turned out to be the winning goal at Victoria Park.
As early as the third minute, a United counter-attack, beginning with goalkeeper Joel Pereira’s throw out, led to Weir laying the ball on a plate for Joe Rothwell, but his neat finish was ruled out for offside, despite replays indicating he was onside by at least two yards.
The same combination after some neat play saw Rothwell volley wide from Weir’s deep cross, as Arnel Jakupovic had a shot spilled at the other end, but Pereira was able to collect the loose ball at the second attempt.
Adnan Januzaj’s corner was met by a glancing header at the near post by Devonte Redmond, but his effort was held by Joseph Fryer.
Brilliant tracking back and ball-winning from Januzaj allowed him to play in Pereira, with his shot from the angle forcing Fryer to turn behind the low drive from the Brazilian.
United’s number ten then fired just wide after being teed up by Weir, with half-time arriving up in Hartlepool.
Januzaj’s shot hit the side netting with Thomas McAloon seeing a shot saved after the break, before the opening goal came just before the hour mark.
Marauding right-back Callum Johnson’s cross struck the boot of Pereira, allowing Cooke to slot home the rebound into the bottom corner.
Holding onto that lead for less than 15 minutes, Burn was alleged to have brought down Weir, and as he was the last man, the referee had no choice but to give him his marching orders.
Pereira stepped up, firing the spot-kick down the middle as Fryer dived to his right.
Looking the more likely with an extra player, Rothwell’s through ball found Weir, whose first time cross on his left went in off the unfortunate McGinley.
Weir himself scuffed an attempt wide from Pereira’s pass as the visitors looked to seal the game, but a professional final five minutes meant that United held on for three pressure points.
Another North East side to lose at home, Sunderland’s 1-0 defeat to Leicester City means that Warren Joyce’s side leapfrog the Black Cats into first place by two points, with a game in hand in the locker also.
A harsh penalty, accompanied by Burn’s dismissal certainly changed the game, but after having a legitimate goal ruled out for offside in the first half, United will feel a sense of justice after this result.
Up next in the league is a trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool on Sunday 13 March.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Love (El Fitouri 29), Williams, McNair, Riley (Warren 46); Poole, Redmond; Rothwell, A. Pereira, Weir; Januzaj (McTominay 60).
Subs: McTominay, Henderson, El Fitouri, Mitchell, Warren.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Middlesbrough: Fryer; Johnson, Burn, Elsdon, Kitching; Maloney, Pattison; Jones, Cooke (McGinley 72), McAloon (Morelli 79); Jakupovic.
Subs: Wheatley, Morelli, McGinley, Pears.
Manager: Paul Jenkins