Shola Shoretire, Hannibal, and Alvaro Fernandez shine in five-star United under-23 performance

Manchester United’s under-23s hit Derby hard with a 5-2 victory against a depleted Rams side.

Derby’s relegation battling under-23s fielded a handful of trialists and Manchester United took them apart with a strong second half performance.

Earlier in the season Derby payed United hard and held the Red Devils to a 1-1 draw. They competed well in the first half last night at Leigh Sports Village, with just a goal from left-back Alvaro Fernandez separating the two sides.

Derby then equalised early in the second half before Hannibal restored United’s lead from the penalty spot, and United went on to win 5-2, turning the performance up a notch to score four times in the final half an hour. Here is a little more about what we learned…

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

United named unchanged side

It is rare when United can field the same XI at under-23 level. The Red Devils were able to do so for the Friday night game, keeping the same side which salvaged a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace last week.

With a handful of younger players like Charlie McNeill and Alejandro Garnacho featuring in the Youth Cup 24 hours earlier at Old Trafford, there was less room to rotate.

United’s XI was comprised of: Mastny; Wellens, Fish, Hardley, Fernandez; Savage, Iqbal, Shoretire, Hannibal, Emeran; Mellor.

United brought under-18 duo Manni Norkett and Max Oyedele off the bench late on. Norkett actually scored a sixth goal from a Shoretire pass, but it was ruled out for offside.

Alvaro Fernandez so impressive

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

Left-back Alvaro Fernandez was the best player on the pitch as he turned in his best showing of 2022. The Spaniard’s performance continues to show why many believe he will be the next youngster to follow Anthony Elanga into the Manchester United first team.

Fernandez scored United’s opener and set up two more goals in the second half. He scored his opener after a driving run and after exchanging passed with Zidane Iqbal saw the goalkeeper save his shot, before Fernandez reacted quickest to score the rebound.

This season he has eight assists in all competitions, a highly impressive figure for a left-back, adding to his three goals. Only Shola Shoretire has more assists at this level this season with nine.

Shola Shoretire continues strong season

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

The least surprising development of the night was Shola Shoretire getting on the scoresheet. He makes a decisive contribution each and every week.

He is now clear as the top scorer this season in under-23 football with six goals, moving ahead of D’Mani Mellor who he was level with on five.

Our list of under-23 top scorers also factors in UEFA Youth League goals and EFL Trophy goals too, where Shoretire is still the leader with eight.

Shoretire helped United control the game and netted the fifth goal to wrap up the scoring. An incisive pass from Hannibal from inside his own half picked him out and Shoretire beat the offside trap and scored low past the goalkeeper.

Zidane Iqbal was also impressive in midfield all night. The Iraq international showed lots of nice touches and linked up well with the attacking players in the final third. He came close to adding a goal late on, curling an effort just over.

Hannibal, Emeran and Savage get off the mark

Photo by Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images

The surprising aspect of United’s five goals against Derby was that in-form D’Mani Mellor was not among the scorers. This meant three players scored their first goals of the season in the win.

Hannibal was among them, dropping down after being on the bench against Atletico Madrid in midweek. He has had a disrupted academy season due to training regularly with the first team, and playing at two senior international tournaments with Tunisia.

He scored his goal from the penalty spot after Noam Emeran was fouled after a surging run into the box from the right wing. The goalkeeper guessed the right way but Hannibal’s penalty was too low for him and nestled in the bottom corner.

Noam Emeran then found the target to score his first ever under-23 goal. Injury meant he did not start a game in 2021, and he is now benefitting from playing regularly.

Hannibal started the move with a strong pass from deep which Fernandez received out wide, before crossing low for Emeran who struck first time to extend United’s lead to 3-1. Only at this point in the 70th minute did the game begin to get really one-sided.

Charlie Savage also scored in front of watching dad Robbie Savage, who was at the stadium. He thought he scored in the EFL Trophy against Bradford earlier in the season but this was given as an own goal, so he is finally off the mark.

Savage’s goal came with a header after a pinpoint cross from Alvaro Fernandez, who was running rampant up and down the left wing by this point.

Up to fourth

United’s under-23 team are competing at the top end of the table, with nine wins and five draws from 20 matches.

The Red Devils are in fourth place, 10 points back from City, but above the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, and Chelsea. A couple of sides have games in hand on United, but points on the board are always good to have.

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