In the wake of the first team’s 4-0 battering of QPR at the weekend, the U21s didn’t want to be any worse, dublicating the scoreline against Sunderland. Adnan Januzaj was the star man in a well-working co-operation, and the Black Cats were left with no chance whatsoever.
United opened in a fresh manner, with Anderson finding Januzaj with an accurate through ball after only a couple of minutes. Unfortunately the Belgian wasn’t able to get an end product, as his finish from a tight angle only hit the side netting.
A couple of minutes later, Saidy Janko got past his marker to put in a cross on the near post, but Maximilian Stryjek in the Sunderland net was able to clutch it just in front of Will Keane. Otherwise it would probably been a goal.
In the fourteenth minute, United came on another visit in Sunderland’s box. Janko squared it from the right and Wilson laid it off to Anderson, who was unable to sort his feet properly out, and the finish was weak.
Nineteen minutes into it, Stryjek made an absolute shambles of a goal kick. He was only able to find the feet of Adnan Januzaj, which turned out costly in the end. Januzaj, fittingly wearing number eleven, just as he does on first team level, played it to Keane, got it back and slotted it composedly into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Three minutes later, Anderson won a challenge in midfield. The ball ended up at Luke Shaw’s feet after going by Thorpe and Harrop, and the former Southampton player crossed it towards Andreas Pereira. The Belgian of Brazilan descent needed a touch to get it under control, but subsequently volleyed a well-placed finish out of the keeper’s reach to put United 2-0 up.
After 27 minutes, Luke Shaw played a long pass from his left back position. Will Keane was on the receiving end up it, and laid it off brilliantly for Januzaj, who had no troubles to bag his brace.
Saidy Janko was a proper threat for United in this game, and after 32 minutes he crossed it for the hat-trick-chasing Januzaj. He dragged it back to evade the defender, then curled it out of the keeper’s reach. Sadly, it went wide of the post as well.
United entered a period of a more composed approach, but the interchanging in midfield was brilliant to watch. Thorpe remained the bottom of the midfield diamond, but Anderson, Harrop and Pereira interchanged positions swiftly to confuse the Sunderland side. Additionally, they proved the advantage of basically having four central midfielders, as it gives a numberical power they exploited in terms of tracking down the Sunderland midfielders when on the ball. Fortunately for United, the Black Cats weren’t able to turn play from side to side and exploit the lack of wide men in the narrow 4-4-2 diamond setup.
Just before the break, Sunderland visited United’s box for the first time. Watmore was able to get on a ball volleyed into the box, but Ben Amos didn’t disappoint when called into action for essentially the first time of the game.
After 57 minutes, and a relatively uneventful period, Watmore got an opportunity to test Amos again, but the shot stopper parried it to a corner kick, which eventually faded away.
63 minutes into it, Anderson got an opportunity to fire home from the edge of the box. Januzaj’s failed attempt to cross ended in a headed clearance and the ball eventually ended up at the Brazilian’s feet. However, his goal-bound curled effort unfortunately struck the far post.
Januzaj had a couple of other efforts to get his hat-trick before he finally succeded in the 82nd minute. The 19-year-old found Vermijl on the left hand side, who almost immediately returned it in a Denis Irwin-like manner, for Januzaj to slide it into the back of the net. That was Januzaj’s final contribution of the game, as he immediately was replaced by James Weir.
The second half turned out as the textbook definition of an anti-climax, with United not really bothering to push on, and Sunderland completely unable to bounce back. However it was nice to see Luke Shaw do all right, pick up an assist and gain some match fitness and see that Januzaj (still) is way too good for this level. Additionally, the diamond 4-4-2 worked out excellently, and Tom Thorpe did great in the holdning role.
United XI: Amos – Janko, McNair, Vermijl, Shaw (Pearson 45), Harrop, Thorpe, Anderson (Rothwell 71) – Pereira – W. Keane, Januzaj (Weir 83)
Unused subs: O’Hara (GK), Grimshaw