Manchester United took on Bolton in the Manchester Senior Cup last night, with several U21 regulars being omitted from the squad. Sadly, the quality of play suffered as a result, and Bolton stole the longest straw in the Monday night showdown.
The game hit the ground running, and Luke Woodland and Kaiyne Woolery had Joel Pereira on the back foot within the opening five minutes, but neither were able to hit the target from decent finishing positions. Neither did the Wanderers left back Ryan Sellers, but he still rattled the crossbar after cutting in from the left. Woolery even had another chance before the ten-minute mark, as he sprinted past Thorpe and Grimshaw and pulled the trigger, but Joel Pereira pulled off a save to block his name from entering the score sheet.
Thirteen minutes into the game, United for the first time turned out on the front foot. Fletcher, coming in from the right, squared it to United debutant and Bolton loanee Andy Kellett, but the left back playing at the left hand side of midfield was unable to hit the target with his composed instep finish.
Just a minute after, Sean Goss had an attempt on target, with a curling free-kick effort over the wall, but he didn’t get enough power to it and, Harry Campbell in the Bolton net was able to get a glove onto it.
20 minutes into it, Ashley Fletcher booked his first attempt on target. After winning the physical showdown against the Bolton defender, he got the ball onto his left foot and curled it towards the far corner. Nonetheless, he didn’t get it sufficiently close to the post, so Campbell was once again able to deny the striker.
The latter part of the first half was far more uneventful than the frantic first part, and charachteristically fading away in a crossed Bolton free-kick being headed away on the edge of the box, before the referee blew his whistle.
At half time, Sadiq El Fitouri, described as Johan Cruyff-like by Phil Neville whilst at Salford City, went off after a rather un-Cruyff-like display. He gave away some free-kicks from his position on the right hand side of midfield, and didn’t really offer much offensively. In other words, bringing on Callum Evans was probably a right decision by Warren Joyce.
Bolton’s right back Rob Holding made sure that the second half started in the same fashion as the first, with him getting a decent opportunity from the corner of the box. Nonetheless, he curled it undangerously wide. Bolton were probably unlucky that the opportunity fell to him and not to a more clinical finisher.
The break-through arrives
In the 54th minute, there were significant impact to be made on the score sheet. Kalyne Woolery exploited Liam Grimshaw’s poor positioning and was able to get on a defence-splitting through ball. Subsequently he laced his scoring boots and chipped it brilliantly Joel Pereira, who wasn’t really able to do much, except seeing the ball ending it’s trip in the back of the net.
After 70 minutes, Woolery was on the march again. The pacy attacker was in the limelight of a counter attack, and Bolton were actually on the doorsteps of sealing the victory, but his effort to pull it back for his teammate Georg Illiev just wasn’t up to it, and got intercepted.
72 minutes into it, Matty Willock came on for Ashley Fletcher, which meant that United finished the game without a natural centre forward, as James Weir featured as United’s front man towards the end of the game.
Just after the substitution, Hayden White got a run on the right hand side, and crossed it for Luke Woodland, but Pereira saved his volleyed effort without too much hassle. A goal for Bolton around this point would’ve been the final nail in the coffin, but United hung in there.
Subbed on, subbed off
Unfortunately, the subbed-on Callum Evans, who only had 34 minutes to his name after coming on at half time, was subbed for the U18 defender Axel Tuanzebe, after picking up a knock. Such a shame, as Evans had put in a decent effort on right back. This meant that Donald Love was put back out wide, with Tuanzebe at right midfield, and Liam Grimshaw in defence.
Seven minutes from time, Andy Kellett was close to grabbing an assist for his new club. The 21-year-old cut in from the left, squared it for Donald Love on the edge of the box. Love put his boot through it, but the effort suffered on the accuracy note, and went some distance off the target.
Just as we entered the final couple of minutes of the game, the goalscorer Kaiyne Woolery went into an (unnecessary?) challenge when blocking a Pereira clearance, with the goalkeeper picking up a knock as the aftermaths. For a moment, there was some sort of concern, as United had used all the three subsitutions, but Pereira carried on in spite of the blatant discomfort.
Bolton to the final, Joyce still composed
Nonetheless, United, without the likes of Blackett, Andreas Pereira, Harrop and Wilson, lacked the required cutting edge to break through a well-organised and hard-working Bolton side, and the game faded away into nothing for United’s side. Bolton, on the other hand, clinched the first win against United on this level for over a decade, and they’ll face Manchester City in the final.
In the post-match interview on MUTV, Warren Joyce appeared in a composed manner. “I don’t think you could fault the effort,” Joyce stated, before adding, “there was a lack of agression to get on the end of some balls that went across the face as well.” On a more general cup note, the reserve team manager added that “it’s disappointing to go out, but it’s been a really good for us, we’ve done well, and won it several times over the past five or six years.”