Manchester United U21s soared to the top of the Barclays Premier League after a 2-1 away win at West Ham United, thanks to goals from the two strikers, James Wilson and Will Keane, on a rain-swept evening down at Rush Green in Essex.
This game saw the timely return of Michael Carrick, who clocked up just over an hour’s worth of football under his belt, as the visitors made it four wins from a possible five this term.
Early on, Saidy Janko rattled the bar from close range after picking up the loose ends of Reece James’ cross before Andreas Pereira had a speculative shot from distance blocked.
The opening goal came fell on 19 minutes, courtesy of a wonderful left-footed strike into the bottom corner from Wilson, 25 yards from goal. He showed for the ball on the edge of the area and received it from James, who had brought the ball forward with purpose, and Wilson turned and produced a fine strike past Sam Howes, to give United the lead (https://www.stretfordendarising.com/forum/f7/u21s-west-ham-united-v-manchester-united-7452/#post116073).
Emmanuel Onariase was booked for the hosts, which was sandwiched between a Pereira free-kick sailing high over the bar and Wilson’s free-kick striking the Hammers’ wall.
Carrick then played a measured ball over the top of the West Ham defence and into the right-hand channel for Wilson to chase, and the young striker expertly turned Onariase – who had to be careful as he was on a booking – ran into the penalty area and should’ve doubled his and United’s tally but his tame effort was held comfortably by Howes in the West Ham goal.
United were left to rue their dominance not leading to a second goal as Elliot Lee, son of Rob, shrugged off Tyler Blackett and made a chance out of nothing, and curled the ball into the far top corner of Anders Lindegaard’s goal, as Dad watched on from the stands.
The second half began with United looking to get back in front, with Wilson firing a shot over after a sublime touch to turn and set himself from Pereira’s dinked ball into the left-hand channel.
Wilson then dragged a shot wide before Pereira’s dipping free-kick took a deflection off the West Ham wall and out for a corner.
With a spring in their step, the young Reds continued to press, with James’ cross cleared away by Onariase as Keane lurked behind West Ham’s number five, before James himself saw a weaker right-foot shot parried from James Weir’s lay-off, only for Howes to claim the loose ball at the second attempt as Wilson attempted to sneak in.
Another free-kick from Pereira flew well over the bar without troubling before he set up Keane, but his left foot shot was held with ease by Howes.
With just over twelve minutes remaining, United finally regained the lead after brilliant work by Weir.
The number 11 sprinted into the box and tip-toed his way in and out of the desperate West Ham defenders before producing a dinked effort that hit the on-rushing Howes on the shoulder, only for Keane to latch onto the loose ball and fire it into the back of the net, and add to his hat-trick he scored against Accrington Stanley in the Lancashire Senior Cup, two-and-a-half weeks ago.
United seemed content to sit on a one goal lead as James’ shot that went out for a throw-in was the last attempt from their perspective, but there was time for a Lee strike at the other end in the first of four added minutes at the end of the contest, but the ball fell safely into Lindegaard’s hands, as the visitors held on for another three points.
West Ham offered little in attack throughout the match but defended resolutely, but United’s patience and persistent paid off, as they claimed another scalp in what is proving to be an exciting competition for these future prodigies to be a part of.
United can now look forward to facing bottom side Leicester City in their next game, which takes place a week on Monday at Leigh Sports Village, with a kick-off time of 7pm once more.
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Vermijl, Thorpe, Blackett, James; Janko, Carrick (Grimshaw 64), Weir; A. Pereira; Wilson (Love 64), W Keane.
Subs: Grimshaw, O’Hara, Love, Goss, A. Fletcher.
Manager: Warren Joyce
West Ham United: Howes; Page, Pask (Knoyle 85), Onariase, Westley; Nasha, Makasi (Mavila 85); Gordon (Fanimo 68), Lletget, Bywater; Lee.
Subs: Knoyle, Boness, Fanimo, Mavila.