Manchester United’s young under-23 team were taught a lesson by their Liverpool counterparts on Friday night.
United were beaten 5-3, with the team scoring two late goals to add respectability onto a game which at one stage threatened to get out of hand, with the opposing side 5-1 up after 50 minutes.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men in the second half, with Shola Shoretire sent off on his first under-23 start for pushing an opponent over after a wild tackle on Di’Shon Bernard.
Anthony Elanga, Hannibal Mejbri and Charlie Wellens scored United’s goals.
Mejbri hard to deal with
Hannibal Mejbri was the architect of United’s best moments and had a hand in all three goals.
His own strike was so well taken, dribbling the ball into a dangerous central area before wrong footing the goalkeeper from the edge of the box to drill it low into the net.
He set up Elanga’s goal with a dangerous free-kick which the winger bundled home from close range, before finding Wellens inside the area late on.
Another incisive pass to Shoretire in the first half was called back for offside.
Whenever he got on the ball, he looked capable of making things happen, and a cutting ball into space for Elanga on the left provided the Swede with a chance to run at the Liverpool defence and force their goalkeeper into a full-stretch diving save.
Mejbri was fouled a lot, too much. It seems to be the only way opponents manage to bring him down. He has a way of wrong footing the other team and gliding past players. And then he often gets brought down.
He needs to learn how to react to this better. At one stage in the first half he appeared to kick out after being pulled down, fortunately he connected only with air.
If he had struck an opponent with his kick out then this would have been an instant red card. He has to learn to control his temperament better.
What was good to see was his work rate. On an evening which could have been an embarrassing one for what was effectively an under-18s United team against a Liverpool side with first team experience, Mejbri never gave up, kept chasing down lost causes, and showed his quality in possession.
This game was not one which showed he is ready for the first team. He has to become more dominant, and simply grow up a bit, and lose some of the petulance.
If he keeps on playing like this though, he will become harder to ignore, and while this is very much a learning year for him, Mejbri clearly has what it takes to step up eventually.
Including the EFL Trophy game which is labelled an under-21s competition, Mejbri now has two goals and four assists in three matches this season. Officially, this was his first goal for the under-23 team.
His creativity and range of passing are assets which could benefit any team.
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