A youthful and vibrant United team arrived at the Ricoh Arena with many players looking to prove they are capable of the step up from u18’s and UEFA European Youth league football. The experienced faces of Amos and Michael Keane were sure to be in for a stern test with Leicester’s powerful front line of Wood and Jeffrey Schlupp, who had a brief stint with United’s reserves last year. The one obvious concern in United’s starting line up was the lack of height at the back due to Donald Love, an orthodox full back, filling in at centre half.
The expected Leicester attacks did not materialise though as the first dangerous moment of the game came in the 10th minute, when a clever reverse from Lingard found Reece James whose low powerful cross was inches away from being converted by James Wilson. A second good chance was created just a minute later as Lingard’s volley from Janko’s cross, after the right back had made a brilliant run down the right, was comfortably saved by Logan. United continued to create chances with James regularly surging down the left. Lingard also seemed to be thriving as a senior player, being at the heart of everything good from the Reds. In truth it was a very impressive opening quarter from the youngsters with scintillating stuff at times but no ultimate reward. In the 33rd minute Wilson showed his first moments of real quality as he turned his marker before driving forwards but he dragged his shot wide.
Finally the inevitable happened as Petrucci curled a glorious free kick out of the keepers reach from the edge of the box after the Leicester Keeper had picked the ball up outside of his area.
The fact that Leicester won their first corner in the 39th minute demonstrated United’s dominance.
There was no time for complacency however as Schlupp missed a brilliant opportunity after a lucky break saw the ball sit up nicely for him in the United box. The move of the half came in the final minute as a free flowing passage of play from side to side saw Pereira’s pile-driver go narrowly wide. This epitomised a 45 minutes which were arguably United’s best of the season, especially considering the circumstances.
We had to wait until the 55th minute for the first real chance of the 2nd half and it was Manchester United again as Petrucci hammered one from nearly 30 yards out, the dipping ball falling on top of the goal. Leicester had come into the game this half and Amos produced a smart save down to his right just before the hour mark. The game seemed to peter out slightly after this with the next shot on goal not coming until a scorching effort from Wilson ricocheted off a City defender.
Leicester’s fresh legs began to show in the last 10 minutes as they started to lay siege to the United half but United defended valiantly; with even James Wilson making a good challenge in his own box. Apart from a half decent save from Ben Amos from the last kick of the game. This was a comfortable and commanding display from the reserves.
All in all, this was a very pleasing response from derby defeat with a squad containing 9 players from the North West, demonstrating the club can nurture quality from around the corner as well as prospects hand-picked from the continent. There has been a lot of hype over Pearson and Wilson especially, who showed glimpses of quality which is a good sign after coming back from injury. Pereira also demonstrated his skill but his decision making is the one aspect of his game that really needs focus; this may be down to him feeling technically superior whilst in the under 18’s and wanting to do everything for himself. Lingard was the stand out player and, along with Michael Keane, they proved that they are just too good for this level.
Manchester United – 1
AMOS; JANKO, LOVE, M. KEANE, JAMES; A. PEREIRA (91), ROTHWELL, PEARSON, PETRUCCI ⚽️, LINGAARD; WILSON. subs: GRIMSHAW, GOLLINI, MCNAIR (91), ROWLEY, WILLOCK
Leicester City – 0
LOGAN (c); PEARSON, SESAY, TAFT, ELDER; DODOO (78),PARATORE (68), CAIN, MAHREZ; SCHLUPP, WOOD (63). subs: KENNEDY, SIMPSON, DAWSON (68), PANAYIOTOU (63), BLYTH (78).