Barclays Premier League Under-21s
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United
Venue: White Hart Lane
Date: Monday 14 April 2014
Kick-off: 19:00 BST
Just like on Saturday for the under-18s, United needed a 58th minute goal from their number nine as James Wilson bagged his seventh goal of the season at this level, following on from his wonder strike against Aston Villa this time last week at Old Trafford.
United had Ben Amos to thank, as he kept the visitors in the game before the break, with the shot-stopper making five brilliant saves to deny Spurs the chance of putting the game to bed so early on in the match.
That was Amos’ eighth clean sheet in 13 appearances at this level this season, and United’s seventh in their last 11 games.
However, Spurs, sporting former-Red Zeki Fryers in their defence, did have the ball in the back of the net as early as the third minute, but Josh Onomah was correctly awarded offside.
Spurs captain Nabil Bentaleb shot way over, as himself and Moussa Dembele began to dictate play, in what was a serious test for United’s youngsters, against two of Spurs’ first team players.
Guillermo Varela was turned inside out by Onomah, whose left-footed shot was saved by Amos, before United were left to sweat over the fitness of the Uruguayan right-back after he was forced off with a nasty injury to his head via an elbow, requiring three stitches to the cut.
Spurs’ top-scorer Kenneth McEvoy had a shot blocked before Ruben Lameiras had a free-kick and corner cleared by a resolute United backline.
19-year-old Souleymane Coulibaly then saw his snap shot drag wide after a neat turn, before Charni Ekangamene – back at centre-half this week – intercepted the ball with a great sliding challenge as the Ivorian bore down on goal.
Lameiras and McEvoy then forced a fantastic double save out of Amos, before the latter found only the side netting after linking up nicely with Onomah and Lameiras.
Amos came out to close down McEvoy on that occasion but was caught by teammate Saidy Janko – who dropped back to right-back after Varela’s withdrawal – but fortunately for United, Amos was okay to resume, after he had single-handedly kept United on level terms.
As half-time drew ever closer, United had failed to muster up anything significant, but a crafty one-two between captain Reece James and Andreas Pereira saw the former’s cross towards James Wilson cleared before the 17-year-old from Biddulph could bring it down.
Into the second half and Spurs continued to dominate proceedings although there was a bit more about United in an attacking sense, as their stubborn defence held firm.
Ben Pearson’s lobbed ball through the middle saw Spurs keeper Jordan Archer head clear as he raced out of his box before Wilson could retrieve the ball.
James then saw his deflected effort fall behind before James Weir – on for Varela in the first half – saw his header fall straight into the heads of Archer.
But United scored the only goal of the goal from their only shot on target, much against the run of play, epitomising Spurs’ failure to take their many chances throughout.
Pearson’s tackle saw Janko take over and he played in Weir whose mazy run saw him pass into the feet of Wilson on the edge of the box. A couple of touches to set himself, before unleashing a shot with his weaker right foot into the bottom left-hand corner, to give United the lead.
This goal saw Wilson draw level with Jesse Lingard with seven for the season, and with Lingard out on loan at Brighton, Wilson will surely set his sights on becoming the top scorer at this level for the season, which isn’t a bad feat for someone who began the season with the under-18s and has missed games through illness, as well as playing as a lone striker for the majority of his game time.
He certainly showed why he has been amongst the first team squad at times with this finish, and his through ball was somehow kept in by James on the by-line, and his cut back found Pereira, whose outside of the foot dinked cross was held by Archer.
The lively Wilson saw another shot blocked before Lameiras hit the wall with another poor free-kick at the opposite end.
An eventful few minutes for Pereira saw him go down with a touch of cramp before being booked, although neither an injury or potential sending off prevented him from completing the 90 minutes, showing why he has been promoted from the under-18s this season.
Another Spurs free-kick hit the wall, this time from Connor Ogilvie, before his expertly fired ball across the box was met by no-one in a white shirt.
A frustrating evening for Lameiras was topped off with a blocked shot and the volleyed rebound going high, wide and handsome, before Pereira failed to wrap up the game in stoppage time with a curled shot falling over the bar.
That wasn’t it though, as a Spurs penalty appeal for a handball on Paddy McNair was correctly waved away by referee Carl Brook, before substitute Daniel Akindayini saw his shot firmly held by the excellent Amos.
Thus sealed a valiant victory for United, as their impressive form in the big stadiums continued, leaving manager Warren Joyce to dream of a top four finish.
Four points from their remaining two games at home to Norwich City on Thursday before a trip to face Reading at the Madjeski Stadium the following Thursday will guarantee United a place in the semi-finals, although less may be required should other results fall in favour of the Red Devils.
As for Spurs, their chances of a top half finish have been all but dashed following this defeat, with Reading at home their last fixture of the season.
A mightily impressive effort and result for United against a strong Spurs side will give them a massive boost of confidence heading into their final two games, in which their destiny is in their own hands.
Manchester United: Amos; Varela (Weir 20), McNair, Ekangamene, James; Janko, Rothwell, Rowley (Harrop 78), Pearson, A. Pereira; Wilson.
Subs: Weir, J. Pereira, Rudge, Harrop, McConnell.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Tottenham Hotspur: Archer; A.McQueen, Ball, Fryers (Lesinak 46), Ogilvie; Dembele, Bentaleb (Gallifuoco 68); McEvoy, Onomah, Lameiras; Couibaly (Akindayini 85).
Subs: Gallifuoco, Miles, Dombaxe, Akindayini, Lesinak