Tom Lawrence was back into the side after his Yeovil loan spell when United’s U21 beat Liverpool 1-0 in the semi-final. This was the first time all season that Liverpool haven’t scored at home.
The victory means that Warren Joyce’s side will face Chelsea in the final, as the Blues beat Manchester City 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the other semi.
The game opened with a spark, as James Wilson intercepted a horrendous pass by Liverpool’s left back. The 18-year-old finished straight away, but wasn’t able to get closer to a goal than a hit of the post. Technically a very good finish, but it didn’t sneak in.
Most of the half went away in a pool of effort with lack of end-product. United got a half chance in the 29th minute when corner kick was crossed into the box, and after some ping-pong the ball ended up at McNair’s feet. He wasn’t able to get some proper power into the shot and the keeper saved it before claiming the rebound.
In the 35th minute Liverpool’s skipper Jones had to limp off with a foot injury, after his own sliding challenge.
The teams were basically heading for the dressing room when Andreas Pereira decided to involve himself. The Belgian received the ball outside the box, spotted the keeper a couple of yards off his line and curled it wonderfully over him and into the top corner. The exquisite strike was Pereira’s second goal in the U21 Premier League this season.
Liverpool’s Dunn managed a finish from inside the box just a minute later, but his powerful effort went just wide and United were 1-0 up when the teams changed sides.
In the 56th minute, Joe Rothwell went off and was replaced by James Weir on. This was Rothwell’s 12th game in a row after being haunted by injuries prior.
Andreas Pereira went on a promising run after 65 minutes, slipping a way from a defender, but his distant effort was blocked. The Belgian certainly has the ability to produce moments of sheer quality, but needs to work on his consistency.
Ben Pearson went on a similiar, although not agile, run after an interception. The keeper made a decent save to parry the powerful effort, and Pearson wasn’t able to control the rebound properly. This was Pearson’s energy displayed at its most intense, and he was basically everywhere during the entire 90 minutes.
Nine minutes from time Liverpool’s Peterson managed to get on a header, just over. In the same situation, Wilson landed in an uncomfortable manner and injured his right knee. United’s top scorer had to lim off and when this is written the extent of the injury is unknown.
The scousers pushed on when approaching the dying minutes of the game and their subbed on Smithgot a clear cut chance after some mayhem in the box, but his effort went over. The opportunity was not any lesser of a chance than a penalty kick is.
Smith got to a header in the 90th minute, but once again his effort went over. United’s team effort was really sublime, mostly exemplified by Ben Pearson, but other lads such as Reece James excelled as well.
The only concern was actually James Wilson, one of the most consistent performers throughout the season. After missing his huge change by a narrow margin in the very start, he seemed to disappear a little from the game. Additionally, Lawrence, who has enjoyed his Yeovil spell on an individual note, seemed to be more in the spotlight than Wilson himself.
However, all the lads have reason to be proud after such a display – and season. United haven’t had a proper centre-back around for months, but Paddy McNair and Charni Ekangemene have excelled through versatility. The two, usually flanked by Varela and James, and shielded by Pearson and Rothwell, have secured United one of the best defensive records in the league.
United: Amos – Varela, McNair, Ekangemene, James – Janko, Rothwell (Weir 56), Pearson, Pereira – Lawrence (Love 87) – Wilson (Harrop 83)