While Manchester United’s first team training in Marbella, the under-23s were put through their paces in a friendly against Benfica on Monday. Aidan Barlow scored the only goal for the Reds in a 2-1 loss in Lisbon.
United’s young players have been at a warm-weather training camp in the Algarve, Portugal. Aside from the psychological boost of a warm week away, it has presented a number of scientific benefits. Perhaps most importantly, it has offered a chance for the under-18s and under-23s to mix together.
Manchester United youngsters beaten by Benfica
Benfica put out a team with a mixture of B team and under-23s players. United started with a number of young under-18s stars. A couple of training knocks kept some of Neil Wood’s under-23s men out of action.
United starting line-up against Benfica: Mastny; Neville, Mengi (c), Devine, McGhee; Galbraith, Levitt; Barlow, Helm, Traore, Ramazani.
Benfica’s Serginho gave the Portuguese side the lead after 13 minutes. Aidan Barlow equalised for United soon after, set up by Belgian-Burundi winger Largie Ramazani.
Barlow scores only goal for United in Portugal
Neil Wood made a number of changes at half-time as he brought on a selection of under-18s players. Hannibal Mejbri, Charlie McCann, Charlie Wellens, Max Haygarth, Dermot Mee and Connor Stanley all arrived on the pitch.
United played well and could have been ahead before those changes when Ramazani forced a goalline clearance. After half-time, the young United side held out until the 70th minute when Tomaz Azevedo beat Mee. Mejbri came close to scoring late on but Benfica got the win over United.
Teden Mengi captained the side despite being one of the youngest players in the starting line-up. Had he not begun to play regularly in the under-23s, Mengi would have been the under-18s captain this year. He captains the FA Youth Cup side and this is a sign of the esteem in which he is held by Neil Wood.
Portugal trip has offered great opportunity
United’s players have been given a fantastic opportunity with the trip to Portugal. Neil Wood has been able to integrate the younger players, like Mejbri and McCann but also Stanley, Wellens and Mee, into the under-23s set-up.
This week will be seen to be hugely beneficial when these players are promoted into the under-23s side. It’s also a rare opportunity for some of them to get some game time in a high-level, competitive field with older players.
United’s under-18s arrived in Portugal off the back of an FA Youth Cup win against Leeds. They’ll play Wigan Athletic in the quarter-finals as the Reds look for their first FA Youth Cup win since 2011.
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