Neil Wood’s Manchester United Under-23 side beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1 in the Premier League 2 at Leigh Sports Village.
A win for United saw them close the gap on league leaders West Ham United to one point, and made it six league wins in a row.
The entire starting eleven were all members of the first team squad that travelled to Astana for last month’s Europa League tie – which ended in an unfortunate 2-1 defeat.
The visitors, who had the 35-year-old Chris Brunt spearheading their midfield, took the lead through Jamie Soule in the 16th minute with a tidy first time finish.
The Baggies set up to frustrate the hosts and were hurting United on the counter-attack, but Wood would have been frustrated with the lack of urgency and tempo in our passing.
United’s best chance in the first half fell to captain Angel Gomes after an Ethan Laird cutback, but the visitors valiantly blocked his effort.
Largie Ramazani lashed in United’s equaliser just shy of the hour mark into the bottom corner after a Tahith Chong corner fell to him inside the penalty area.
United took the lead in fortuitous circumstances as West Brom’s goalkeeper took too long with his clearance and hit it straight at D’Mani Mellor, which ended up flying into the back of the net.
Gomes sealed the three points for his side in the closing stages after he tapped home Chong’s clever cross.
Here are players that impressed in the win…
After scoring United’s equaliser, Ramazani showed his defensive naivety by recklessly diving into a challenge and conceding a penalty.
Luckily for the young Belgian he had Kovar to bail him out with yet another terrific save.
It was a crucial time in the game for the Czech stopper to make the penalty stop with the game finely poised at 1-1.
Kovar showed great concentration throughout the clash and made a number of saves and crucial collections to take the pressure of his side.
Kovar will be hoping that his match-winning intervention caught the attention of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the Europa League clash against AZ Alkmaar.
With Wood unable to call upon Reece Devine, he was forced to reshuffle his defensive pack, which saw Teden Mengi fill in at left-back and Max Taylor come in at centre-back.
Playing alongside Di’Shon Bernard, Taylor made a number of clearances and last ditch tackles to thwart the Baggies’ counter-attacks.
The 19-year-old has a real knack of getting himself in the right position to sense danger and clear his lines.
The call up to the senior side for the trip to Astana would have done wonders to his confidence and experience.
United’s powerful right-back showcased his full array of attacking attributes, but it was his resolute defending which was also a real highlight in his performance.
Wood’s side were sloppy in the first half and got caught in possession in crucial areas, which gave Deon Burton’s side the opportunity to hit us on the break.
But it was Laird who showed his recovery pace to make a number of last ditch tackles to stop the visitors creating more goalscoring chances.
The 18-year-old was at his rampaging best down the right-hand side and linked up well with Chong.
With upcoming home clashes to come against Alkmaar and Colchester, Laird will be itching to get the taste of further first team minutes and experience after his Astana bow.
The former Charlton Athletic man always finds a way to influence matches and he is becoming the main man in Wood’s side.
His reckless challenge to give away a penalty shows that there is still work and maturity required, but his pace, dribbling skills and goals highlight the raw ability he possesses.
Only Anthony Scully (11) has scored more Premier League 2 goals than Ramazani (9).
In 14 matches playing in the league and the EFL Trophy under Wood, Ramazani has scored 10 goals and registered two assists.
The 18-year-old will be hoping to be part of the Europa League matchday squad.
Leading United’s forward line, Mellor was starved of supply in the opening stages as the hosts struggled to create clear cut chances.
The 19-year-old deserved his goal and it came through his hard work and desire to hassle and press for the team.
In the first half he went on a superb jinking run, which saw him glide past two defenders, but unfortunately there wasn’t a finish to match as he pulled it just wide into the near side netting after cutting in from the left.
In 12 games this season, Mellor has 4 goals and 6 assists, which highlights his growing importance to Wood’s side.
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