There were contrasting fortunes for Manchester United’s Reserve and U-18 teams this past week. The Reserves were humbled at home by West Ham, while the U-18s picked up all three points in an impressive away win at Sunderland.
Manchester United 0-3 West Ham United
Ricky Sbragia’s side continue to struggle in the Premier League 2 division after being comprehensively beaten 3-0 at home to West Ham United on Monday night. United, who currently sit 11th in the table, started the game brightly and had the best chances in a closely fought first half. They managed to muster five shots on target compared to the Hammers’ one.
Captain Joe Riley was seemingly the catalyst for the attack-minded opening from the reds, offering marauding runs from deep within his own half. One run in particular showed Riley’s quality, as he performed a wonderful solo run, only to drag his shot just wide of the goal. Manchester United goalkeeper Theo Richardson, who was stepping in for Kieran O’Hara, produced a good stop to prevent West Ham from opening the scoring later on in the first half.
The second half was more a one-sided affair. Sbragia was forced into making an early substitute as Ethan Hamilton was caught in a nasty challenge. United once again started brightly, with Riley forcing West Ham goalkeeper Jonathan Trott into a smart stop.
However, the Hammers gained a foothold in the game and got the opening goal after 51 minutes – Grady Diangana converting from close range after Richardson made the initial stop. It would get worse for the hosts a minute later when Luca Ercolani was sent off for a high challenge on the Hammers’ goal scorer.
10-man United then faced an uphill battle for the rest of the game and the visitors put the tie far beyond reach with two quick goals within two minutes of each other. The first, a Martinez header on the 69th minute and the second, a powerful Martin Samuelsen strike that Richardson had no chance stopping.
Richardson’s performance was one bright spark of an unfortunate afternoon. In only his second start for the Reserves this campaign, he produced some fine saves to keep United in the game and prevent further damage from the ruthless visitors.
Another important mention is that of Angel Gomes, who came off the bench for his first Premier League 2 appearance. The young World Cup winner tested Trott with a couple of his trademark free-kicks late on.
Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United
Manchester United’s U-18 kicked off 2018 with an important 2-1 win away at Sunderland. Tahith Chong grabbed a brace to give Kieran McKenna’s side all three points in a tightly contested game on Wearside.
It was a tentative start to the game, with both sides having enjoyed a rest over the winter break. However, it was the Reds who gained momentum in the match, controlling large parts of possession and getting a penalty after Ethan Laird’s run was met with some foul defending. Chong stepped up and converted his penalty with ease.
The Black Cats grabbed an equalizer not long after Chong’s opener, a lapse in defensive concentration led to Robbie Dunne’s leveller. After 45 minutes, United would have felt disappointed not to be going into the break with a lead.
Laird, United’s adventurous right-back continued his good work in the game and almost gave the reds the lead after more overlapping runs lead to his side-footed effort going close. In the 72nd minute a red mist descended on the pitch after United substitute Largie Ramazani was tripped by Tom Scothern and a skirmish ensued. The home team were reduced to 10 men after Tom Howard was red-carded and United’s Ramazani was handed a yellow card for his involvement in the saga.
The surprising development in the game benefited the visitors as 11 minutes later Chong rounded the keeper and slotted home into the empty goal. Funnily enough, it was Ramazani’s through ball that set-up United’s decisive winning goal.
The game was rife with incident and tempers flared once more towards injury time, however, the situation was quashed without further discipline for either side.
The win for United was an important one, moving them back to third in the table, only two points behind leaders Liverpool. McKenna’s side will have a week of training before heading to Stoke City on Saturday.