Manchester United U18s mini preparations for the FA Youth Cup encounter against Reading were cut short as their game was postponed due to weather conditions.
This was not quite optimal as the youngsters were returning from holidays and they also had limited playing time due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the club. This affected the players’ performances in the first half.
Manchester United XI: Vitek; Jurado, Jackson, Fredericson, Murray; Oyedele, Mainoo; Mather, Hansen, Garnacho; McNeill.
Substitutes: Wooster, Pye, Aljofree, Gore, Ennis, Norkett, Hugill
As the game started, both teams had a clear idea of what to do, constantly in attacking mode. Oyedele in the first ten minutes has been one of United’s brightest players as he moved well through the middle making a few good interceptions. Just a few minutes earlier, it was McNeill taking a shot, however it was just wide. Reading on the other hand, had a good chance to go ahead via Clarke, who did not make enough of an effort to defeat Vitek in the end. United responded with Hansen–Aaroen, however a slight deflection makes it easier for the keeper to save it.
United were in a bit of difficulty as Reading created some great chances while United’s only chances are coming from Hansen–Aaroen and McNeill.
Reading were solid at the back and their goalkeeper was quite attentive whenever called upon. This situation was ongoing as for the opening twenty minutes and everything was being even at the moment with neither side making the best out of their chances.
After a few Reading chances and several warnings, United finally woke up and Mainoo won the ball on the edge of the box and then shoots it by going past two players and then finishing with his left. Reading wanted to react immediately but United were already some sort of dominance on the game. This time it was Jurado breaking down close the box but the referee waved play on as the ball ends in McNeill’s feet, who had been heavily involved so far in the game, and takes another shot. The Reading goalkeeper once again was forced a save and then again makes another one on a Sam Mather shot.
Reading responded quickly on a counterattack with Jurado beaten quickly, however Fredericson was fast enough to make a brilliant block. It did not take long for United to make their chances count as Sam Mather and McNeill were heavily involved in United’s second goal. It was Mather who made a first pass at McNeill, who then passes it back to Mather and despite being deflected easily, the ball ended up back at the net. While thinking about the quick set up play between the youngsters, it was time for United’s star to put his name in the scoresheet.
Charlie McNeill was at the end of Garnacho’s cross and he does well to beat the player who was set to mark him and excellently finishes into the corner. As the minutes went by United were trying to make their dominance aware finally after a hard worked first half overall. The match had been entertaining, and on the other hand, it was only due to United’s striking force that the difference was made.
Despite winning by three goals, the second half started with United on top of their game. Fredericson recovered the ball brilliantly who then played it at Garnacho but the Reading goalkeeper is the only reason why his team at some point are not conceding more at the moment. As we went past the hour mark, United made their first change of the evening with Garnacho making place for Ethan Ennis.
United were still looking forward to extend their lead as Mainoo played in Mather but nothing good comes out of it. Gore then replaces Mainoo, one of United’s best players who continues his great form.
Reading somehow manage to get back in the game with Greaver who sends the ball past Vitek. Oyedele once again has shown a great display and Ennis since coming in was excellent. Oyedele then is obliged to leave the pitch as he was brought down injured and therefore replaced by Pye later on.
In the final minutes, Hansen finds Mather and then he passes towards Ennis, but the youngster’s shot is just wide. As the game comes to an end, United U18s are qualified into the next round of the FA Youth Cup. While asserting the dominance must be a main talking point in the post-match meetings the coach and the players will have, it is vital they learn to finish their chances.
It is quite obvious that United have enough players to find a solution in attack, but the flow of the game is also important. Given the circumstances with limited preparation time, as in matches being played, things were back on track and United did their job and qualify. They should obviously be hungry for more.
The FA Youth remains an important part of the history of this club and as such it is fundamental that we (the team) have their eyes on the price, however taking games one at a time.