On Wednesday night, the Manchester United U21s thrashed Salford City 6-0 in their EFL Trophy opener. Here are the three things we learned:
This U21 side is loaded
Neil Wood has a ton of talent at his disposal this season — and it showed at Moor Lane. I’ll get to Hannibal Mejbri a little later, but almost every player in this group could factor into the first-team picture in the coming years.
With names like James Garner, Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi, the aforementioned Mejbri, Anthony Elanga, and Mark Helm, the U21s could make some serious noise in this competition (and, hopefully, the UEFA Youth League).
After the 3-3 draw at Huddersfield Town last week, Wood said: “We are used to [the physicality of senior football] now. We know the kind of challenge that’s coming.” And, at least on Wednesday, the U21s were more than up for that challenge.
FT — #MUAcademy U21s: Salford 0 #MUFC 6— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 9, 2020
What a display from our young Reds! Neil Wood's side hit 6️⃣ on the road, with second half goals from McCann, Elanga and a double from Helm. #EFLTrophy pic.twitter.com/EOnLz3XudZ
The academy season opens with a flourish
Over the past several years, Manchester United invested a lot of money to build up their academy after years of neglect. It’s starting to pay dividends.
On Wednesday, the U21s breezed past Salford City to grab control of their group in the EFL Trophy. This competition pits Premier League academy sides against senior opposition from the lower leagues. While not considered a major trophy as of yet, it’s an ideal opportunity for academy youngsters to get experience playing against older men, instead of just players their own age.
At Salford City, it didn’t matter. The young Reds cut through their League Two opponents with goals from Mejbri, Arnau Puigmal, Mark Helm (2x), Charlie McCann, and Elanga. Garner, although not on the scoresheet, ran the entire show from midfield and again proved himself far too good for this level.
The only negative was an apparent hamstring injury for Ethan Laird. Hopefully, the 19-year-old defender won’t be out for long.
And a quick note about Salford — this is a team on the rise. They were languishing in non-league before several members of the Class of ‘92 invested and splashed the cash on new players on substantially higher wages. That allowed Salford City to quickly jump up through the leagues and could see them challenge near the top of League Two this season. The U21s just dominated a pretty good team.
Hannibal Mejbri is the real deal
The 17-year-old, who probably ranks as Manchester United’s top prospect, notched a goal and two assists at Moor Lane. He showed fancy footwork to control the ball in the box and create enough space to get off the shot that opened the scoring. But his biggest highlight was probably the killer pass that set Anthony Elanga free for the rout’s final goal.
Forking out €10 million to Monaco for the teenager last summer might have raised some eyebrows, but it’s looking like money well spent right now.
A goal and two assists for Hannibal Mejbri vs. Salford City tonight.— Statman Scouts (@StatmanScouts) September 9, 2020
The 17 year-old continually tested the space behind the hosts defence - making runs to receive in dangerous areas and dropping smartly to play through balls.
A genuine superstar-in-waiting. ✨ pic.twitter.com/ZKnd2pBTbI