Manchester United returned to the top of the U18 Premier League with a hard-fought away win against Wolves on Saturday morning. Charlie McNeill scored the only goal of the game for the Reds.
After an emphatic 4-1 victory for Liverpool against Middlesbrough earlier in the day, United had to win to reassert themselves at the top of the table. They have done so now, and still have a game-in-hand on their rivals, who they dramatically beat 4-3 last weekend.
It’s seven consecutive wins for Manchester United now; a hugely impressive record with a young side settling in together.
Man United U18 struggle to break down compact Wolves
It was a difficult first half for United against a compact Wolves side. The home team set out as they normally do in a 3-4-3 formation where the two wingers tuck inside. It makes for a crowded central area of the pitch.
United tried to work it out wide to stretch the game but rarely managed to carve out genuine space. Instead they resorted to quick passing around the box to try and break Wolves down and often came close to finding it as Iqbal, McNeill and Emeran in particular combined.
Missed chances in first half for United U18
Shots were rare for United, but the Reds could have gone ahead nevertheless. Iestyn Hughes sliced a shot wide of the right post after the Wolves ‘keeper Young had parried out a cross from McNeill. Savage swept an effort wide of the other post after lovely work from Iqbal on the right-wing.
Wolves had their moments too. United dominated but would have trailed were it not for Harkin slotting it wide when one-on-one with Dermot Mee.
Charlie McNeill came close to his fourth goal of the season. Jurado flicked a ball in from the right, McNeill tried to get up for the header. He couldn’t but pounced on the loose ball that followed. His shot deflected onto the post and for a corner. From it, captain Svidersky headed wide of the far post when he should have done better.
Charlie McNeill scores fourth goal for United
15 minutes into a second half which started in stalemate fashion, McNeill did find that fourth goal of the season. Marc Jurado fed Charlie Wellens on the right side of the area. Wellens cut it back for McNeill who, under close attention from the Wolves defence, showed excellent control before finishing well into the far left corner.
He could have had a quick second, too, but the Wolves defence did well to marshall him wide as he looked for space for a shot on the edge of the box.
Dillon Hoogewerf came off the bench quickly after to replace the impressive Wellens. United looked to capitalise on a game that was always going to open up once the first goal was scored.
It did, although Wolves still sat back for the main part. Savage struck a fierce drive in the 70th-minute which cannoned off the right post. McNeill was in the right position to take advantage but the shot was so powerful that he hardly had time to see the rebound as it fell to his feet and he stuck the shot wide.
Wolves eventually did start to spring out of defence, especially through Harkin, a tricky Northern Irish left-winger.
United brought the goalscorer McNeill off for Norwegian attacking midfielder Isak Hansen. Manager Neil Ryan’s shouts from the touchline turned to the defensive focus, encouraging his players to focus and get back when needed.
Although more gaps opened up at the other end for the Reds, they couldn’t find the all-important second goal. It made for a nervous ending.
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