Manchester United under-23s continued a fine scoring run to see off Arsenal at Leigh Sports Village on Friday night.

Amad Diallo missed the game through illness but in his absence, 17-year-old Shola Shoretire excelled.

Neil Wood’s team move up to fourth in Premier League 2 with the well-deserved three points.

It was a bittersweet start for Manchester United. The Reds gained a one-man advantage after only eight minutes when Arsenal’s Daniel Oyegoke was sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Hannibal Mejbri was brought down after an exquisite long ball from Ethan Galbraith. It was a harsh sending off similar to that of David Luiz for Arsenal recently.

Hugill misses penalty after early foul on Hannibal

Joe Hugill’s scintillating form hit a bump in the road when he saw a poor effort from the subsequent penalty saved by Arthur Okonkwo.

LEIGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Joe Hugill of Manchester United U23s misses a penalty during the Premier League 2 match between Manchester United U23s and Arsenal U23s at Leigh Sports Village on February 12, 2021 in Leigh, England.
(Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Charlie Patino joined Oyegoke for an early bath, the unfortunate victim of an Arsenal reshuffle. Jonathan Dinzeyi, who joined Arsenal from Spurs in August, replaced him.

Hannibal Mejbri injured after fall but Harvey Neville opens scoring for United U23s

United’s Hannibal joined the pair of them when he was forced off with an injury to his left arm after an innocuous coming together with Dinzeyi. Bittersweet it continued to be. The Frenchman departed the field in the wake of United celebrations when Harvey Neville scored his first goal for the club at under-23s level.

Arsenal were opened up on the flanks. Shoretire fed Hugill on the left, he pushed a ball across the area where the on-running Neville, cutting in from the right, met it. Neville’s shot had some power but should have been kept out by Okonkwo. It wasn’t and so United led.

The Gunners’ nerves jangled as first Alex Kirk came close to beating his own ‘keeper with a powerful and mis-hit backpass before Okonkwo had to dive backwards to stop Dinzeyi’s header nestling in his own net.

Shoretire and Galbraith with excellent free-kick efforts

Shoretire, even without the space-creating presence of Hannibal, had another excellent game finding pockets of space in the number 10 position. In one of those moments, the 17-year-old won a free-kick with a Ronaldo chop before his beautiful curling effort cruelly ricocheted off the crossbar.

 

Galbraith took charge of the next free-kick in a similar position and offered a similarly excellent effort. Okonkwo saved well and Arsenal survived with a one-goal lead until half-time.

Two fantastic saves defined the opening to the second half. Kovar stepped up first to tip a right-footed strike from Florian Balogun round his right post. Okonkwo’s was even better, a stuck-out left foot to deny Connor Stanley from close range. Stanley’s effort was good, directed into the corner, but Okonkwo’s save was marvellous.

Joe Hugill scores 10th Premier League 2 goal

It went from the great to the woeful for Okonkwo, though, who let a close-range flicked effort from Hugill go through his legs for United’s second. The striker’s movement was good, as was the build-up from Fernandez, but his effort should have been too weak to score. In a night where his involvement was inconsistent, Hugill still got himself on the scoresheet.

Fernandez should have had an immediate second assist when another well-timed cut-back went to McCann. His effort was poor.

United seemed ready to assert themselves on the game after the second but their initial dominance quietened to an extent. Arsenal threatened on the counter-attack, most notably through the lively Balogun.

A sweeping United move almost produced the third. Stanley, who grew into the game in his fourth under-23s appearance, charged forward on the counter and set up McCann. His footwork for good but his finish was lifted disappointingly over the crossbar.

The same crossbar was rattled a moment later when McCann’s midfield partner, Mark Helm, found space to get a powerful right-footed shot away. Okonkwo’s slight touch was vital. It was the fourth time United hit the woodwork.

Shoretire scores late penalty to cap off superb month for United under-23s

Shoretire capped off a fine performance and a stellar month with an 88th-minute penalty to wrap the game up. He won the spot-kick himself, taken down on the left side of the area by Alebiousu, and tucked it into the bottom right corner.

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