United weclomed Liverpool to Leigh Sports Village on this Monday night, and sent the Scousers home without much to celebrate. This in spite of a line-up screaming from a lack of natural goalscorers.
Actually, Andreas Pereira was United’s top goalscorer on U21 level this season if only players in the line-up were taken into account. Pereira had scored twice, with the absent trio Will Keane, James Wilson (both six goals) and Adnan Januzaj (four) not being around tonight.
The opening quarter of an hour past away without the goalscoring opportunities, although both sides looked to push on. However, Liverpool’s five-man defence and United’s narrow 4-3-3 conghested the midfield, making it hard for both sides to break through.
The first clear-cut chance came to Liverpool’s Serigo Canos after 25 minutes. The debutant Valdes played it accurately for Blackett at left-back, but the versatile, Sylvain Distin-like defender played it haplessly straight to Canos. Fortunately for United, the finish was a shambolic and unaccurate effort, flying wide of Valdes’ left post.
Just inside the opening half an hour, United had the first chance at the other end. Anderson received it from Pereira and delivered an exquisite through-ball for Nick Powell. The defender was able to get a slight headed touch, but it didn’t impact the pass significantly, and the former Crewe player was in all of a sudden one-on-one with the keeper. However, Powell was unable to convert the opportunity, as his composed finish just shaved the outside of the far post.
Nonetheless, just four minutes later, United got the upper hand. Saidy Janko was fouled on the right hand side, and Andreas Pereira aided the home side to take maximum advantage. The Belgian curved it into the box in a David Beckham-like manner, and Nick Powell bounced back from his miss some minutes earlier. Powell rose into the air and delivered a towering header, off the floor and into the back of the net.
Four minutes prior to the break, Liverpool got back onto level terms. Anderson was unable to shield his defence like had done so well, and a pass coming from Liverpool’s midfield found Jerome Sinclair. The Birmingham born striker, who’s the youngest ever to represent the scousers at first team level, caught Tyler Blackett off guard and he rocketed the ball past Victor Valdes with a relentless finish.
The spectators had barely managed to find their seats for the second half when the first goal of the half took place. Nick Powell played a crucial role and eventually found Janko on a drifting run out wide. The swiss 19-year-old played a reverse pass for Paddy McNair (out of all people!), who took maximum advantage and slotted it home composedly. Actually, it might have been less of a surprise that it appear, as there were only three players with U21 goals to their name this season in United’s line-up: Pereira, Thorpe and McNair.
52 minutes into it, United had a double chance to extent the lead. Andreas Pereira curled a free-kick nicely over the wall, but he didn’t get it sufficiently away from the ‘keeper Lawrence Vigouroux, who parried it with some ease. Jesse Lingard was quickly on the rebound though, but his volleyed finish went wide of the target with some distance.
A relatively uneventful period of the game occured, with Anderson’s long-range finish from 25 yards as the most noticeable incident. Saidy Janko was drifting out wide again, pulled it back for Ando, but the Brazilian was unable to get enough power into his left-footed curled effort.
Liverpool dominated possession without creating much in the subsequent period. Jordon Ibe created a chance for himself when he dribbled gracefully past Blackett on the edge of the box, but the Derby loanee skied it some distance over the crossbar. Eventually, the game faded away, with a couple of substitutions late on not fuelling the intensity.
A few performance mentions will firstly mean Tom Thorpe, who captains this U21 side with ease, even on a night against Liverpool where he’s returning from injury. Anderson did all right in a holding midfield-role, in some sort of a narrow 4-3-3. Additionally, Tyler Blackett better sort out his concentration as soon as possible. With physical attributes as good as anyone, it’s such a shame that his mind isn’t always in the right place, which could’ve cost United this game even before half time.
And does anyone remember Jeff Schlupp, the current Leicester player who had a trial and some U21 games for United? He’s something as rare as a left back and striker. During this game, Saidy Janko operated as something similar on the right hand side, switching continously between being right wing back outside Paddy McNair and playing up-front with McNair as the right back.
United: Valdes – McNair, Thorpe, Blackett, Vermilj– , Anderson (Grimshaw 87) – A. Pereira (Weir 86), James – Janko Lingard, Powell
Unused subs: J. Pereira, Love A. Fletcher