Manchester United’s Under 21 side are taking part in the EFL Trophy for the first time this season.
The merits of Premier League sides being able to enter teams into a tournament designed to give third and fourth tier clubs a shot at getting to Wembley can be debated elsewhere – but United are grabbing their chance.
Neil Wood’s side are into the knockout rounds while it hasn’t gone quite so well for the youth sides at other top flight clubs, making United’s achievement look even better now.
How have United got on?
United were drawn in Group H alongside League One trio Doncaster, Lincoln City and Rotherham.
Back in August, Wood’s side kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 away victory against recently-relegated Rotherham, thanks to goals for Ethan Laird and Largie Ramazani in the second half.
At the start of last month, James Garner netted the only goal as United scooped another win, against Lincoln at Sincil Bank.
And on 29 October, Mason Greenwood’s stoppage time winner preserved United’s 100 per cent record in the competition, breaking Doncaster hearts at the Keepmoat Stadium.
That has ensured safe passage into the knockout stages as group winners, a full six points clear of Doncaster, who also made it through.
United might have made light work of progression, but the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool did not make it look so easy.
How have other sides got on?
Liverpool were drawn in Group B with Accrington, Oldham and Fleetwood and picked up just a solitary point – drawing with the latter before losing on penalties – to finish bottom.
Tottenham’s youngsters also came bottom, mustering just a single draw with Colchester, although they did outperform their senior side in beating the Essex club on penalties to scoop two points.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s kids failed to win a match in normal time, losing to Northampton on penalties before seeing off Cambridge after a 1-1 draw.
West Ham and Aston Villa are among the Premier League teams to also drop out.
Chelsea and Manchester City made it through the group stages, but United’s academy team was the only one to do so winning all three games.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has placed an emphasis on youth and will be heartened to see the next generation having success against hardened sides where a number of top clubs – including Liverpool – have failed this season.
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