Manchester United under-18s will end 2020 at the top of the U18 Premier League after a comfortable and stylish win against Leeds on Thursday lunchtime.
Neil Ryan’s side wrapped up their 2020 fixture schedule in perfect fashion. Charlie McNeill, a summer signing from Man City, scored another United’s first two goals in a 4-0 victory.
With rivals Liverpool and Manchester City playing this weekend (against Derby and Blackburn respectively) before a fortnight break for all teams, United have opened up a six-point lead at the top of the division.
Charlie McNeill scores twice in first half for United U18
Only six minutes had gone when McNeill gave United the lead. The English striker was brought down in the box and nonchalantly converted the penalty with a chip past Harry Christy.
Guilty of losing their shape too often, United came under some pressure from Leeds. A 25-yard effort struck off the post and Johan Guadagno was forced into a good save from a free-kick too.
McNeill scores stunning chip just before half-time
But come half-time, United led by two. Christy charged out of his goal and onto United’s right-wing to try and meet McNeill. He skipped past the Leeds ‘keeper and glanced upwards as the empty net began to be filled by Leeds defenders. And then the audacious chip came, nestling into the far sidenetting.
If the first half had been tight, the start to the second was all United. Svidersky set up Hugill with a backheel but the normally clinical striker stuck it wide. Alejandro Garnacho was guilty of doing the same twice in succession soon after.
Charlie Savage scores second goal of the season
The pair made up for it quickly. Garnacho snatched the ball off his marker, played in Joe Hugill and the free-scoring striker turned provider as his low cross was finished smartly by Charlie Savage.
Johan Guadagno denies Leeds U18 with brilliant triple-save
Guadagno was still needed and when he was, the Swede came up big. He made three point-blank saves in 20 seconds as a scrappy corner allowed Leeds three consecutive chances on goal. It was unconventional but brilliant from the ‘keeper.
Although Ryan had only named four substitutes, he used all three of his outfield options. Sam Murray, an under-16s player, replaced Logan Pye. His first contribution to the game was a roulette and Cruyff turn combination which let him beat two Leeds defenders.
Iqbal continues good form with late goal for Reds
Zidane Iqbal made it four for United with just over 10 minutes remaining. Rhys Bennett stepped out from defence into space, spotted the gap in the Leeds backline and played in Iqbal perfectly. He made no mistake in the one-on-one chance, finishing past Christy into the bottom right corner.
United have now scored 32 goals in 11 games in the U18 Premier League. The Reds have been rampant. It’s no surprise when you consider the attacking quality in the side. Joe Hugill has six goals in four games, Charlie McNeill now has six goals in eight games. But it’s the contributions from elsewhere on the pitch that are vital; Savage and Iqbal on Thursday but also Wellens and Emeran in previous games.
Guadagno was in excellent form throughout against Leeds. Despite the comfortable scoreline for United, Leeds had plenty of opportunities, hitting the post and crossbar once each. Guadagno was constantly alert and as well as his triple-save in the second half, he made three or four other crucial stops to keep a cleansheet.
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