An electric first half gave Manchester United under-23s a crucial win in Premier League 2, dispatching of Stoke City easily. Here’s how the players performed…
Matej Kovar (5/10)
The United ‘keeper had little to do except thank the linesman’s flag in the first half. Kovar was beaten three times in 45 minutes but was saved by offside calls on all three occasions. In truth, none of the disallowed goals would have seen him blamed had they been given anyway.
Stoke’s second goal could have been easily prevented by better communication from Kovar. The Czech came rushing out of his goal at a corner but a James Garner header took it away from him. Had Kovar shouted, he could have claimed the ball but instead Stoke managed to head home a second into an empty net.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah (7/10)
It’s been a long time out with injury for Fosu-Mensah and he started at right-back as he looked to impress first team boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The United manager has namedropped Fosu-Mensah on a couple of occasions so he’s clearly seen as part of the first-team plans.
The Dutchman did well on the right flank, storming down with the support of Tahith Chong on more than one occasion. For Angel Gomes’ goal, the second for United, Fosu-Mensah overlapped past Chong and cut it back for Gomes to finish off. He looked quick and ready for more minutes.
Axel Tuanzebe (6/10)
Like Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe has been out for some time now. He was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as well as a Solskjaer favourite, just before the festive period but injury has kept him out for months. Tuanzebe had a fine game, mopping up on a couple of occasions.
Stoke’s first goal saw him beaten in the air by Forrester and he should have done much better. After Harry Maguire’s dominant aerial performance against Everton, it wasn’t great to see. He made up for it with a goalline clearance in the last minute.
Tuanzebe will likely have a couple more games in the under-23s before he returns to first-team action. Eric Bailly’s return will block opportunities more than before too.
Dishon Bernard (6/10)
Bernard will have benefitted from playing alongside the experienced Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah. The ex-Chelsea defender put in a good performance in central defence.
Dion McGhee (6/10)
It was a tough challenge for Dion McGhee, a natural attacking midfielder, at left-back. He worked hard and tried to influence the game from the left. Defensively, he did his job well, putting in a couple of crunching challenges and generally staying correctly positioned. He struggled against the pace, height and power of Stoke’s forwards and Mame Biram Diouf tried to expose that a couple of times.
James Garner (8/10)
It was another exemplary performance from Garner and his goals added to that. The England youth international now has nine goals in 12 games for the under-23s this season. It’s a great record.
His first was a header from a corner and he did well to find the space in the box and then even better to direct it past the goalkeeper. United had only got the corner after a Garner strike that stung the palms of the Stoke shotstopper Davies. Garner’s second was a chipped effort on the counter-attack.
Dylan Levitt (7/10)
Levitt did the simple things right as he always does. The Welsh midfielder kept United’s game ticking over. He was much more influential in the first-half and the tempo of United’s passing decreased in the second, partly due to that.
Ethan Galbraith (6/10)
Similarly to Levitt, Galbraith helped United’s game ticking over. Starting from deep positions, Galbraith drifted into the wide areas a lot and helped Fosu-Mensah and McGhee to get forward.
Tahith Chong (8/10)
He may have struggled at times in the first-team but Chong ran riot in the first half against Stoke. With a low centre of gravity and great feet, he looked in confident form. A lovely reverse pass through the lines to Barlow started his work off. Then he whipped a shot over the crossbar, fed Fosu-Mensah down the right flank and soon cut one back across the face of goal after an excellent run. It was a busy start.
He should have won a penalty after 15 minutes when he was pulled back but the referee missed it. He continued to cause havoc until half-time, contributing to all of United’s goals. After the break, Chong sat a defender down on the floor before seeing a good shot blocked. He’s got a lot of talent, it’s just time to see it in the first team. We may do so on Thursday night after Chong was substituted off with 15 minutes remaining.
Angel Gomes (8/10)
Gomes captained the United side despite the presence of Fosu-Mensah and Tuanzebe. It shows how much his leadership is valued by manager Neil Wood. Gomes performed well, acting as the key cog in the central areas on the United attack. A couple of lovely touches acted as first-time passes to his teammates and Gomes delivered some excellent crosses.
His goal was a tap in but he did well to control across that had been deflected slightly. The run at the back post and the way he found space was good as well.
Aidan Barlow (6/10)
This. was Barlow’s second game since returning from his loan move at Tromso, in Norway. He played well as United’s striker and sometimes left-winger. It’s not a rule he’s that used to playing, normally operating in a three behind the main forward. A couple of tight offside calls stopped him in his tracks and he struggled to find that much space in the box. When he did, Stoke’s defence recovered enough to block his efforts.
Aliou Traore (6/10)
Replaced Chong in the 76th minute and had little time to influence the game. Almost gave Stoke an equaliser by failing to clear the ball.
Teden Mengi (6/10)
Only came on with six minutes remaining. Played in an unfamiliar left-back role which will benefit his development.
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