After a staggering 42 days without action for United on U21 level, and with a further 35 until the next league game Warren Joyce’ lads were back on track against Everton on Monday night, facing off at Leigh Sports Village.
Considering the upcoming League Cup fixture for the first team, it would’ve probably been favourable to see the likes of Johnstone, Lingard and Wilson omitted from this U21 game to rather play against the Tractor Boys, but Joyce doesn’t have the widest squad, and they even played the entire 90 minutes, which more or less rules them out for Wednesday.
The showdown never became the greatest exhibition of football, as Everton struggled to turn up for big parts of the game, and particularly the first half was in and out United.
United on the front foot from the off
The home side had the first opportunity to take the lead, only five minutes into the game. Sean Goss’ left foot was in charge of an exceptional through-ball to today’s skipper Lingard, who cut in from the left, but despite successfully lobbing the ball over the keeper, it unfortunately went three inches over the crossbar as well.
The home side, however, managed to get on the front foot in the sixteenth minute of play. Despite enjoying lots of possession in the opening quarter of the game, the Red Devils weren’t able to take proper advantage before James Weir advanced into the final third. The 20-year-old played a one-two with Wilson and made no mistakes against the Everton keeper.
A brilliant sliding challenge by Josh Harrop was crucial when United extended the lead, as possession fell to James Wilson’s lethal feet. The first team striker approached the box and delivered a composed finish out of the keeper’s reach to make it 2-0.
Harrop, who was involved in the build up of both the goals (as he initially passed it to Weir on the opener), got a chance to extend United’s lead even more after 33 minutes. He got the ball outside the box, dribbled past Liam Walsh and managed to get a shot on target, but it wasn’t powerful or accurate enough. Jesse Lingard had a distant attempt not long after, but the effort went wide of the target.
It basically took 42 minutes before Everton came knocking on the door. A cross from the right found David Henen’s top tier, and Johnstone was forced to make a qualified save, although not being too troubled to prevent the goal.
Keeping it going in the second half
United continued the second half as the first, in complete charge of the game. Early on, the ball fell to Borthwick-Jackson, who pulled it back for Harrop, but the latter was unable to hit the target, skying it way over the bar from a very good position.
However, the 2-0 lead didn’t last long. Jesse Lingard drifted in between the lines, receving the ball from Borthwick-Jackson via Weird, pulled off a decent move before he slotted the ball accurately into the far corner.
Lingard even tried to replicate his finish only a handful of minutes later, but Mateusz Hewelt had learned his lesson (and the finish wasn’t as accurate either.)
After an hour of play, Sam Johnstone had to turn up for only the second time in the game. Donald Love’s failed clearance ended up at Ledson’s feet just outside the box, and the Everton midfielder curled it nicely towards the top corner, but the United shotstopper was able to parry it to a corner kick.
Toffees turn up
Everton were, however, destined for pulling one back. Borthwick-Jackson wasn’t able to keep up with Jonjo Kenny’s overlap, and the Everton right back (who started at centre back) crossed accurately towards the powerful Calum Dyson, who relentlessly headed it home for the Toffees.
Kennedy was almost involved in a goal immediately after, as Timothy Fosu-Mensah visited the left-hand side and dribbled past him, to cut inside and see his deflected shot sail over the crossbar. That was Fosu-Mensah’s final action of the game, as he immediately was replaced by Devonte Redmond.
United in charge at all ends
Except an uncontrolled James Yates header in the dying minutes, who could put some tension into it, Everton rarely looked to be able to get anything from the game. United dominated from start to end, with Love and Tuanzebe having control in the back yard and the likes of Lingard, Weir, Wilson and Harrop doing the business at the other half. The only one struggling a bit was maybe Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, who struggled at times to prevent crosses, including the one resulting in the Everton goal.
United: Johnstone – Varela, Tuanzebe, Love, Borthwick-Jackson – Goss, Weir, Fosu-Mensah (Redmond 78), Lingard – Harrop – Wilson
Subs: El Fitouri, J Pereira, Fletcher, Riley, Redmond
Goals: Weir 16, Wilson 21, Lingard 53
Everton: Hewelt – Jones, Pennington (Yates 23), Kenny, Connolly – Williams, Walsh (Charsley 46), Ledson (Lees 69), Henen – Grant – Dyson
Subs: Charsley, Gray, Graham, Lees, Yates
Goals: Dyson 75