Manchester United remain win-less at under-23 level after a disappointing start to the season.

Following draws with Leicester and Chelsea and a loss to City, United were beaten 3-1 away to Arsenal at the weekend.

What went wrong?

United were behind from the very first minute after Arsenal’s promising striker Folarin Balogun scored a very early goal.

United’s team had included a strong-looking backline, with Dean Henderson in goal and Teden Mengi and Phil Jones in central defence.

However, there was a bit of rustiness there too. Henderson was making his first appearance since a six-week absence from fatigue due to Covid.

Manchester United Training Session
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Jones was making his first competitive appearance at any level since January 2020, and this was also Mengi’s first competitive appearance since April.

Regular centre-back Bjorn Hardley was moved out to left-back, a position he played for the under-18s in the 2019/20 season, but the new look backline came off second best against an Arsenal frontline which also started first team forward Eddie Nketiah.

Star player this season Alvaro Fernandez was missing due to suspension. He has netted twice and has one assist so far.

 

What were the positives?

United bounced back after going 2-0 down, with Shola Shoretire scoring his first goal of the season.

United showed character to get back into the game and were only undone for a third in injury time, similar to the defeat to City a fortnight earlier. Pushing for the equaliser proved to be United’s downfall.

The match was notable for young winger Sam Mather, who came off the bench to replace Zidane Iqbal in the 68th minute.

This was Mather’s under-23 debut and reward for an impressive start to the season for the under-18s.

Mather scored one goal and provided an assist in the under-18s victory over Leeds the previous gameweek, marking his strike with a Cristiano Ronaldo celebration.

The under-18s match this week was postponed, which allowed Mather to make the jump up.

The 17-year-old had spent the international break with England’s under-18s squad. While this call-up to United’s under-23 was just a taster, it will encourage him to keep working hard.

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