Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division 1
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
Venue: White Hart Lane
Date: Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 BST
Manchester United retained the U21s Premier League title in the most dramatic way possible, with right-back Guillermo Varela scoring a 94th minute winner at White Hart Lane.
The 3-2 victory against Tottenham Hotspur came after Donald Love and Andreas Pereira had given United a quick-fire lead, only for Spurs captain William Miller to give the home side a lifeline, as substitute Joe Pritchard equalised with less than 10 minutes to go to seemingly rescue a point for Ugo Ehiogu’s side.
Nevertheless, the never-say-die attitude of United saw Varela grab the headlines, scoring in the final minute of additional time to secure the victory, and with it this season’s league crown.
It was the perfect start for United with Paddy McNair’s forward pass leading to Pereira’s heavy touch falling into the path of the onrushing Love who unleashed a low first time drive past Luke McGee and give United the lead inside five minutes.
That lead was doubled after a switch of play found Varela who took one touch to control before whipping in a deep cross which Pereira duly obliged to volley home with a first time strike.
Looking for a response, Harry Winks fired high and wide before Spurs did pull one back in their next move.
An in-field pass found Miller lingering in space unmarked on the edge of the area, and after taking one touch to control and one touch to set, he placed his strike into the bottom right-hand corner to half the deficit.
The lively Winks forced Joel Pereira into a fine low save to tip the ball past his left-hand post, with Kazaiah Sterling’s first time curler just missing the top corner.
Miller then struck a free-kick into the wall as half-time brought to an end an entertaining first half in North London.
Looking to restore their two goal cushion after the break, McGee’s poor kick fell to Love, who sliced wide with much of the goal to aim at, with Pereira doing likewise despite a promising run to set himself up, as Varela volleyed wide from a tight angle.
Winks fired over and Anton Walkes’ touch and volley dropped just over the bar, with Pereira’s break forward at the other end leading to his curling effort striking the post.
That missed chance looked to have cost United, with substitute Marcus Edwards’ deflected cross allowing Pritchard to tap home and bring the hosts back on level terms.
Spurs could have won it too, with Edwards seeing a near post effort parried and Sterling failing to direct a half-chance at the back post as four minutes of stoppage time were signalled.
Having won a free-kick on the right-hand side in the final of those additional four minutes, Pereira’s short routine left McNair with a shooting opportunity, but despite this attempt being blocked, the ball dropped to Varela, and the Uruguayan’s stunning strike found the back of the net to send the visitors into jubilation with virtually the last kick of the game.
It is in the DNA of this club to fight until the end, with many last gasp goals securing huge results and many trophies over the years, and the U21s are no exception.
With two tricky away games against Southampton and Chelsea to wrap up the season, clinching the title here was crucial to ease the pressure, and Warren Joyce’s side retain the Premier League trophy in remarkable fashion in a pulsating encounter.
The trip to St. Mary’s to take on Southampton falls next Monday at 7pm, where United will walk out on the south coast as Champions.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Varela, Tuanzebe, Williams, Borthwick-Jackson; McNair, Love; El Fitouri, Redmond (McTominay 62), Riley; A. Pereira.
Subs: Poole, Henderson, McTominay, Mitchell, Reid.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Spurs: McGee; Walker-Peters, Walkes, Lesniak, Muscatt; Stylianides (Goddard 85), Winks; Sonupe (Edwards 72), Onomah, Miller (Pritchard 68); Sterling.
Subs: Pritchard, Glover, Goddard, Edwards, Marsh.
Manager: Ugo Ehiogu