Despite playing with 10 men for 85 minutes, Manchester United U23s held Brighton & Hove Albion to a 0-0 draw at Leigh Sports Village on Friday afternoon.
Manager Neil Ryan will be delighted with a performance in which United demonstrated immense effort and quality on and off the ball.
This is a United side that has entertained with high-scoring games all season but for once, a stalemate is a good result for the Reds.
Will Fish sent off after 5 minutes to make Manchester United work hard
United captain Will Fish denied Brighton a clear goalscoring opportunity after only five minutes and was duly sent off. The English centre-back had brought down Tanimowo as the winger was running through on goal. It was merely a nudge, but the referee had no choice. Fish had made no attempt to play the ball.
Given the form goalkeeper Matej Kovar proved himself to be in, Fish may have been better off letting Taminowo have his chance. From the resulting free-kick, Kovar saved well. That would be a theme of the afternoon.
United’s response to losing their captain was exemplary. The constant movement and good runs of Joe Hugill were complemented by good first touches and good hold-up play. That gave United an outlet to rely on.
Ethan Galbraith slots into United defence and copes well
At the back, Ethan Galbraith slotted into defence and after an early loss of possession, coped well. When Brighton got the ball wide, Devine and Neville were joined by teammates and few crosses were allowed in. It was a good defensive structure and United built on that with some decent attacks.
Hugill was almost clear on goal when he was brought down by Wakely, who was booked for his troubles. Minutes later, the striker pulled the ball back in the box after a pass from Svidersky. Hugill’s cutback was met by McCann but the Northern Irishman chose to take a touch rather than hit it first time and the ball got away from him.
Matej Kovar proves United hero in first half
Kovar impressed, denying a Weir long-shot, a brilliant curler from Furlong and a tight-angle finish from Jenks.
United survived the first half, then, with an element of comfort. Brighton’s constant recycling of possession, and United’s inability to retain it, made for a second half in which a Brighton goal felt inevitable.
The Seagulls came close, but that sense of inevitability was not matched by a flurry of chances. So when Dillon Hoogewerf and Alvaro Fernandez were brought on for United, the potential to change things was there. After a minute, the Dutch forward rasped a a right-footed shot at Rushworth’s goal.
It was saved, but the shot and the substitutions opened the game up. Play shifted higher and the dual-threat of Hoogewerf and Hugill made Brighton fearful.
More chances came for 10-man United as Hoogewerf, Helm and Hugill had shots well-blocked by the previously unworked Brighton defence. Fernandez’ driving runs from left-back created the scenario.
United faced off against rumoured ex-target Moises Caicedo
Brighton roared back, though. Kovar denied Moises Cacedo from a corner and Ferguson should have scored with an 82nd-minute header. The Irish striker saw a fierce strike tipped wide by Kovar soon after.
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