Barclays Premier League Under-18s
Manchester United vs. Derby County
Venue: Aon Training Complex
Date: Saturday, 28 February 2015
Kick-off: 11:30 GMT
It was Marcus Rashford’s brace that did the job at the Aon Training Complex, with a goal at the start of each half for United’s number nine.
Frantic beginnings to the game opened with Derby captain Charles Vernam finding Offrande Zanzala inside the penalty area, but his low effort was held by Dean Henderson, before Kellan Gordon shot wide a minute later.
At the other end, Callum Gribbin played the ball into Joe Riley, whose touch allowed him to volley a shot towards goal, which produced a save by Eric Behrens, who tipped it behind for a corner.
That corner came to nothing but United’s next one did.
Riley himself floated the corner from the right into the mix, as the ball eluded the head of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, but it bounced through to Rashford, who fired the ball low into the bottom corner.
Derby responded well to falling behind, with Vernam having a shot held and then seeing his free-kick well saved by Henderson as Riley cleared the loose ball.
A short corner than caught United off guard, but as Alex Babos looked like levelling the scores, Tyler Reid cleared his effort off the line.
Fosu-Mensah was then cautioned for bringing down James Carvell on the edge of the area, but Henderson produced a wonderful save to deny Vernam from the free-kick.
A sublime cross from left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was headed over by Rashford, who failed to get over the ball to double his and United’s tally.
An entertaining half drew to a close with Gordon’s curling effort being held by the busy Henderson.
The first action after the restart saw United increase their lead with Borthwick-Jackson’s low cross finding Gribbin, whose shot was blocked, only for Rashford to react quickest and make it 2-0.
Again, a swift response from the visitors to conceding a goal, as Borthwick-Jackson’s poor touch meant he had to clear the ball off the line, before Henderson produced yet another fine save, with Gordon denied from his powerful shot.
Carvell’s speculative shot flew high and wide before Gribbin was denied twice by Behrens at the other end. His half volley was held before his curling left foot strike was tipped over the bar.
A neat move led to Jordan Thompson striking over before a half-hearted penalty appeal after Gribbin’s shot struck the arm of Tom Bennett was waved away by the referee, correctly, as it was ball to hand rather than vice versa.
Rashford and Gribbin saw late bookings, but United went onto to claim the three points, and book their place in the end of season play-offs.
The top four from the north group will join the top four from the south group and compete against one another.
Before then, United face two trips to the northeast, against Sunderland and then Middlesbrough, but they’ve ended their home campaign with the win that guarantees an extended season into April and May, and they’ve hit fantastic form in aid of those games too. Eight wins and a draw from their last 10 games, with six clean sheets in that time, to give United some handy momentum, heading into those play-offs.
Manchester United: Henderson; Reid, Tuanzebe, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson; Redmond, Thompson; Riley, Gribbin, Croskery; Rashford.
Subs: Williams, Dorrington, Dearnley, Rathbone, Hamilton.
Manager: Paul McGuinness
Derby County: Behrens; Stabana (Clennett 82), Wassall, Bennett, MacDonald; Bird (Adams 70), Gordon, Babos; Carvell (Dryden 82); Vernam, Zanzala.
Subs: Adams, Barnes, Dryden, Clennett, Moulton.