Neil Wood’s Manchester United under-23 side were given a harsh lesson by a more experienced West Ham United side.
United’s youngsters travelled to the Chigwell Construction Stadium only one point behind the Hammers ahead of the top of the table showdown.
However, two first half goals were enough for the hosts to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League 2 Division 2 table to four points.
Wood’s youngsters came into the clash off the back of seven straight wins, but after scoring three goals in each of their last 6 games, United struggled to test the Hammers’ goal.
West Ham show their experience
There may have been some rustiness in the legs with it being the first under-23 game in three weeks, but West Ham’s quality shone through, they looked comfortable throughout.
With new Hammers boss and former Reds manager David Moyes in attendance, West Ham fielded a starting eleven, which had six players aged 20+.
In contrast, Wood selected a team made up entirely of teenagers, but had four players who played a part in the young Europa League team that played against Kazakhstan side Astana.
West Ham’s talented forward line of Anthony Scully, Nathan Holland, Daniel Kemp and Alfie Lewis caused United numerous problems and could have scored more.
United’s top scorer Largie Ramazani was an unused substitute and with the likes of Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes with the first team, Wood’s attacking options were limited.
Talented under-18 pair Dillon Hoogewerf and Hannibal Mejbri were also unavailable after participating in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup indoor tournament in Germany.
Wood was also unable to call upon the influential Dylan Levitt, who is still injured, while Garner was making his return from a spell out.
Toughest fixture at the worst time for United
With only one of the league winners getting automatic promotion to Division 1 and West Ham still unbeaten, if United are to go up with the Hammers it will likely be via the play-offs.
It has been difficult for Wood with the likes of Brandon Williams, James Garner and Mason Greenwood becoming permanent fixtures in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team.
The squad has been able to cope against the other sides in the division without their star men, but coming up against West Ham, Wood needed to have his best side available to stand a chance.
If the first team had a clean bill of health it would have been likely that Chong and Gomes would have started this match.
With 8 games to play a lot could change, but United’s youngsters should look to get back on track with a win against Newcastle United on Friday, a team we beat easily earlier in the season.
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