Manchester United under-23s were handed a thrashing by an utterly dominant Chelsea team who are favourites to win Premier League 2 this season.

It was a crushing defeat that United’s coaching staff, led by under-23s manager Neil Wood, will use regularly to teach their players lessons. United were ponderous on the ball in the face of a well-organised and quality unit who tested every one of United’s touches.

United ‘headless chickens’ in thrashing against Chelsea

Credit has to be paid to United’s character. After conceding two early goals, they worked themselves back into the game. After conceding a further four, they still picked themselves up again to make a game of the last quarter-of-an-hour.

It is a young United side which was never expected to be one of the division’s best teams. After a tough start to the season, they have learnt some valuable lessons and were on a decent run of form before this. Chelsea were simply better in every regard.

That was true from the first minute when Faustino Anjorin shrugged off the usually reliable Teden Mengi, left crumpled on the floor, and set up Marcel Lewis. The Englishman put Chelsea ahead thanks to a large and crucial deflection off Ethan Laird which left Woolston with little chance.

Manchester United U23s concede two goals in first three minutes

Only three minutes in, that lead was two. Chelsea tested every touch of United and Galbraith tried to be too clever when surrounded by two markers. They snatched the ball off him, Jude Soonsup-Bell marched forward, faced up Mengi and curled a beautiful finish into the far left corner.

United did work themselves back into the game for a period. The two-goal deficit left it a mountainous challenge but one that United looked ready for.

Shola Shoretire won the ball back, pinged a lovely crossfield ball to Arnau Puigmal but the Spaniard couldn’t find Elanga in the box. Pellistri rattled a finish into the roof of the net after a lovely Mejbri throughball but the former was deemed offside and it remained 2-0.


United threaten to make game of it in first half but ultimately cannot score

Mejbri was tenacious and dragged United forward. Winning the ball back, he fed Elanga who took on his man one-on-one but showed him too much of the ball. From the subsequent corner, Ethan Laird headed wide. Elanga soon teed up Pellistri with a first-time half-volley ball up the pitch. The Uruguayan couldn’t quite control it, Elanga picked up the seconds and took on two men before forcing a good save from Lucas Bergstrom.

But Chelsea could do what they liked when they put their minds to it. Every time they picked the ball up, they threatened, like when Will Fish had to clear a Soonsup-Bell effort off the line. The normally assured Mengi, Fernandez and Fish struggled greatly.

United’s failings were many but ultimately they spent too long on the ball around their own half and chased Chelsea round like headless chickens, gifting them huge space in which to work with.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: Tino Anjorin of Chelsea runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group E stage match between Chelsea FC and FC Krasnodar at Stamford Bridge on December 08, 2020 in London, England. A limited number of fans (2000) are welcomed back to stadiums to watch elite football across England. This was following easing of restrictions on spectators in tiers one and two areas only. Anjorin scored twice for Chelsea U23s vs Manchester United in Premier League 2
Anjorin scored twice for Chelsea – he played in the Champions League this season (Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Chelsea’s third was scrappy but took the game away from United. Anjorin scored it after an excellent first-half display. It was almost four when Fish pondered on the ball on the edge of his area. Woolston saved him, parrying away Lewis’ subsequent shot.

Chelsea run away with it in second half

Five minutes after the break, Chelsea’s fourth did come. Fernandez blatantly took down Valentino Livramento and Anjorin converted the penalty.

The fifth and sixth came from Marcel Lewis and substitute Charlie Brown. It was a period where Chelsea dominated without playing at their highest effort levels.

But United did rescue the capitulation. Well, not rescue, but halt. Having conceded two in four minutes, they did haul themselves back into a game of sorts.

Good character from Manchester United U23s to get consolation goal

ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Joe Hugill of Manchester United U21s in action during the EFL Trophy match between Rochdale and Manchester United U21s at Spotland Stadium on September 29, 2020 in Rochdale, England.  Manchester United U23s Chelsea
Joe Hugill scored a consolation goal for United (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Joe Hugill, who had come off the bench, got his customary goal. It was a nice finish from a wonderful team move that was a credit to United’s mentality. At 6-0 it seemed inevitable that it would be seven or eight. Instead, United scored the next. Alvaro Fernandez crossed well for Hugill and he finished.

After that, not much else threatened. Puigmal and Shoretire were both booked for tackles or words borne out of frustration and United trudged down the tunnel with plenty to mull over during the Christmas break.

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