United fielded a weakened side against the noisy neighbours Thursday night, including Regan Poole on his full U21 debut among others, but both Poole and the rest of the side solved the tasks sufficiently, climbing to the summit of the U21 Premier League.
Keane on more than goals
The opening quarter of an hour went by without much to notice from either side, apart from Will Keane wasting a one-on-one with Angus Gunn thanks to a bad touch, but then United decided to really turn up. Timothy Fosu-Mensah played a long through-ball for Keane, who turned away from the defender and cut it back for Joe Rothwell.The 21-year-old midfielder starting his first U21 game of the season bagged his first goal as well, slotting it into the bottom near corner.
City show intent to some extent
Not long after, City’s Bytiqi wanted to bring the scoreline level, as he cut in from the right, but the effort was blocked by Joe Riley.
City dominated possession for a while in this period, but they didn’t get closer than a powerful Adarabioyo header tipped over by Joel Pereira. In the same periof of play, Kean Bryan delivered a header wide of the target after a free-kick crossed in from the right, after Josh Harrop had commited a foul.
Subsequently, Bytiqi on the right found Garcia in the box, but Reagan Pool got stuck in and got in the way of the shot.
Harrop suffers a groin injury
After 35 minutes of play, Harrop was apparently heading off, due to a groin strain, and Sidique El Fitouri, but for some reason, he carried on. Short-term, it almost yielded a goal, as he was brought down outside the box after a promising run, and subsequently he hit a well-struck free-kick, forcing Angus Gunn between the City sticks to make a decent save.
However, the substitution was bound to take, place, but about 35 minutes later in the game.
United displayed some neat play on the verge of half-time, with Keane back-heeling it to James Weir from a seemingly lost position. Weir knocked it on the one side of a defender and ran at the other side, before cutting it back, but Alex Garcia of City got in the way.
Later, Bersant Celina delivered a great through-ball to Manu Garcia, who looked set for a one-on-one with Joel Pereira, but Donald Love got in the way thanks to good anticipation, preventing the opportunity.
Parking the bus?
United didn’t really create much in the latter half of the first half, but closed the spaces successfully with a positionally unusual 4-4-2, with Fosu-Mensah wide right and Joshua Harrop with Keane up-front.
Josh Harrop, who was a key figure in the first half, almost opened the second half in efficient fashion. Joe Riley overlapped and cut it back, and despite it being blocked, Harrop got the loose ball and curled it towards the far corner, but unfortunately it didn’t get enough curl on it.
Symer Bytiqi successfully took on Riley later, but his pass intended for Celina up-front didn’t really find its intended target.
Will Keane, at the other end, delivered a wonderful through-ball for Weir on a reversed run, but he wasn’t able to get past the defender, and eventually was penalised for handball after being tackled.
Not five for Keane this time
After Will Keane’s five-goal haul in the 7-0 thumping of Norwich on Monday, there was probably always going to be an anti-climax in such a tight game like this. And after a calm period of the game, Keane (who else?) nonetheless came close to putting the game to bed eight minutes from time. Marcus Rashford cut in from the left, and the ball, passing by El Fitouri and Fosu-Mensah on its way, ended up at Keanes feet, but the finish from inside the box lacked a bit of accuracy, and City kept hanging in there.
In the dying minutes of the game, the Blues pushed on for an equaliser, but Alex Garcia’s saved volley from seven yards was the closest they got to the back of the net behind Joel Pereira.
United – top of the league!
In other words, United finally climb to the top of the table after months of playing catch-up with Sunderland, now having two more points and a game in hand. Additionally, the gap to Manchester City is now on a solid ten points.
Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City
MUFC: Rothwell, 16 | MCFC:
Man United: J. Pereira – Love, Williams, Pool, Riley – Weir, Fosu-Mensah, Rothwell (Rashford 71), Redmond – Harrop (El Fitouri 69)– W. Keane
Subs: Henderson, El Fitouri, McTominay, Mitchell, Rashford
Man City: Gunn – Smith-Brown, Adarabioyo, Bryan, Angelino – A. Garcia, Glendon, M. Garcia (Humphreys 60), Bytyqi, Barker – Celina (Faupala 60)
Subs: O’Brien, Humphreys, Horsfield, Kongolo, Faupala