By Bryan Waters.
Manchester United U21s played out an uneventful 0-0 draw with West Ham United at Upton Park in what was a solid defensive performance for Warren Joyce’s side. The result means another clean sheet for the United backline following their 1-0 victory over Liverpool on Monday night and moves them onto 8 points from five Elite Stage fixtures.
Wellington Paulista threatened early with a dipping volley after six minutes that looked to catch out United goalkeeper Ben Amos, but eventually came to nothing. The Brazilian striker, who is on a six-month loan deal with the Hammers, was the main threat for the hosts and looked lively in the early exchanges. In attack for United was Jeffrey Schlupp, the striker who is on trial from Championship side Leicester City, and he looked to impress Joyce with a series of powerful runs at the Hammers backline, but was denied quality service in the opening quarter of an hour.
The first real opportunity fell for West Ham and the right foot of American midfielder Sebastian Lletget. A through ball found him at the byline and despite Paulista available in the centre; he tried to beat Amos at the near post and could only find the side netting. Paulista got another chance to trouble United’s defence after being set through by Elliot Lee after 24 minutes and even though his shot beat Amos, it dragged wide of the goal.
United’s first real opportunity came after 35 minutes from Jesse Lingard following good work from Frederic Veseli, who operated in an unusual defensive midfield role having represented United at either right back or central defence during his time at the club. Lingard’s left-footed strike bobbled wide of Jake Larkins’ goal and never threatened to hit the target, which the 20 year old would have been disappointed with.
Immediately after, Schlupp robbed Pelly Ruddock and cut the ball back to Adnan Januzaj. The young Belgian had plenty of time to hit the target, but lost his composure and blazed over the bar in what was United’s best chance in a first half that was rooted in defensive rigidity for either side.
The first chance in the second half fell to United’s Irish U21 international Sean McGinty, but his header from a Januzaj corner fell easily into the arms of Larkins in the home side’s goal. United had a shout for a penalty when Schlupp took the ball from Ruddock once again and drove at the West Ham defence. The trialist ended up tangling legs with the West Ham midfielder, who had tracked him all the way, but the referee waved away protests from the United players.
United grew into the game in the second half and McGinty’s whipped ball from the byline found Lingard at the back post, whose clean volley was denied by the impressive Larkins. McGinty’s follow up could only hit the side netting, but the action was much improved on the first 45 minutes, despite the lack of goals. The game petered out in the final 10 minutes with one freekick opportunity from Jesse Lingard, but his cross-cum-shot sailed out of play.
Man of the match: Frederic Veseli – In a solid defensive display for the young United side, Veseli was protective of the back four as well as producing some lung-busting runs forward to support the attack.
West Ham United U21s Starting XI: Larkins, Spence, Nasha (Bywater 78), Potts, Shaw, Turgott, Ruddock, Moncur, Lee, Lletget, Paulista (McCallum 78). (Subs: Baxter, Miles, Onariase)
Manchester United U21s Starting XI: Amos, Vermijl, Thorpe, Fornasier, McGinty. Cole, Ekangamene, Veseli, Lingard. Januzaj (Lawrence 71), Schlupp. (Subs: Sutherland, Blackett, Van Velzen, James.)
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