The opening fixture of the reserve season, I always see this as a chance to see the players who didn’t make the US tour, or get signed up by Leicester City, throw in the drama of this being a (Manchester Senior) cup final, and a Derby against City and there was enough to look forward to to turn ITV2’s dinner date off promptly at 7PM.
Perhaps the significance of the game impacted the tempo of it in the early stages?
It was a cagey affair, Wilson who did much to impress on his senior debut against Hull last season attempted to chip the city keeper directly from the kick off, but it was as likely to trouble the keeper as nutloaf is to appeal to folks at a Toby carvery, but even so, it was the only stand out moment of the opening 10 minutes.
As the half wore on there were signs that City were finding ways of using their additional speed and power to take control, this was confirmed by the way in which they cut through the United midfield and back line to take the lead on 15 minutes through their number 9 (name irrelevant) having the sense to follow in on a rebound from Perriera’s parry at the end of a speedy passing move completed by the hosts.
Once City has taken the lead, they had the sense, maturity & strength to stifle United’s initial attempts to get back in the game, this was best highlighted in the way that Pearson attempted to play in Wilson, but the City centre back marking the youngster was easily able to muscle out our bright young hope and win possession back for the buyers of short term success.
The first half was giving the impression it was going to burn out as a contest where defence over powered attack, but as the stoppage time awarded was ticking away, young Wilson picked up the ball just inside the City half after Pearson made a smart interception, in all fairness, there looked to be more on a Nuts covergirl than there was for the youngster as he received the ball, but he set off on a direct run through the heart of the City defence, with balance & speed he tore through all in front of him, drew the City keeper and applied a high quality finish to find the back of the net and level things off at 1-1 (if you don’t believe me, check YouTube), it was a huge boost to Utd, it allowed the half time whistle to come and go with scores level, and all to play for.
From the kick off of the second half there was an immediate difference in the confidence levels of those wearing a United shirt, where we’d spent the first half mostly working to restrict City, we were now imposing ourselves on the game, best demonstrated by the way the lead was taken in the 52nd minute, substitute Harrop out muscled his man on the half way line and rolled in a neat pass to the lively Perriera, he spotted the supporting run of Wilson and played him a wonderfully weighted pass, the youngster took it in his stride, drew the keeper on his right foot, then dinked beyond the keeper and chasing defender to give United a well deserved lead.
United continued to press City in their own half with a combination of well applied aggression from Pearson and his sidekicks, and through the creative work of Perriera, Lawrence & Wilson who continued to create openings as a third goal was pushed for, and it was a combination of these 2 areas that combined in the 66th minute to give Utd a 3-1 lead, Pearson somehow out muscled his much larger rival in the City side to get the ball back for United, he then looked up and picked out the run of Wilson with another well weighted pass, again the young forward did what he does so well, one touch to take it away from the chasing defender, one to set up the finish & the final one to beat the keeper and complete a hat trick any forward would be proud of.
City mounted an effort to get back in the game, to their credit the young United players looked to focus on ensuring City didn’t add to the one goal scored, they put in a number of quality blocks and challenges to ensure any of City’s applied pressure did nothing to change the likely outcome of the game, it was this approach that led to United and Wilson’s fourth, Pearson again broke up a City attack, Lawrence picked the ball up and ran at a retreating City back line, Wilson made his right to left run that his team mate played the ball into, Wilson took one looping touch to get away from his defender, one to draw the keeper, and a final touch on his left foot make a mug of the City keeper and the remaining 9 minutes pointless as United took a 4-1 lead.
Our young hero was shortly afterwards announced as the man of the match, and with 3 minutes left he was substituted to a well deserved round of applause, but for me, the star man who provided the platform for the youngster to perform was Ben Pearson in midfield, his commitment, strength, vision & will to win was the defining difference in the second half that United dominated.
This’s the first time I’ve watched the reserves since the days of Pique & Rossi, but these youngsters, and the ones who featured on the American tour have shown me that they’ve great potential to command the attention LVG and his staff in the coming season.