Two players combined to score six goals for Manchester United in a convincing under-23s victory against Liverpool.

Amad Diallo scored only 13 minutes into his first appearance for Manchester United, robbing the ball off Billy Koumetio and duly finishing past Marcelo to put his side in front. Joe Hugill doubled United’s lead with a similarly composed one-on-one finish, assisted by Arnau Puigmal. Hugill now has 11 goals in 18 appearances in all competitions.

Errors at the back allowed Liverpool to score twice before half-time, the goals coming from Tyler Morton and Louis Longstaff.

Joe Hugill ran the show in the second half, with the assistance of an excellent Hannibal Mejbri. 17-year-old Hugill ended up with four goals. Amad Diallo got two himself.

Joe Hugill

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 29: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Joe Hugill of Manchester United U18s in action during a training session at Aon Training Complex on July 29, 2020 in Manchester, England. Hugill scored four goals against Liverpool
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

17 years old, Joe Hugill signed for Manchester United last summer. He has quickly established himself as the first-choice striker for the under-23s, partly in thanks to an injury to D’Mani Mellor but also thanks to performances of serious quality.

A hat-trick against Liverpool while playing an age group up is a statement from Hugill. His first goal was a composed left-footed finish. The finish was good but it was the run that was perfectly timed to allow Puigmal to feed him through on goal.

The second goal was a different kind of movement, not running on the shoulder of the defender but instead moving within the penalty area to stay unmarked. Fernandez pulled the ball back and Hugill opened his body up and finished high, above the legs of the Liverpool defenders. The third was a well-taken penalty into the bottom left corner. The fourth was another tidy finish into the same corner.

Hugill is a mature striker, tall and slim but muscular and intelligent enough to be a prolific goalscorer. He didn’t miss a single chance on Saturday afternoon. That speaks of confidence, certainly, but also serious quality.

 

The only disappointment is that he gave the second penalty for United to Amad Diallo who duly converted. He could have gone for the double hat-trick.

Hannibal Mejbri

Mejbri played on the left of a three-man attacking midfield behind Joe Hugill. It’s not a position as familiar to him as the central ones but he excelled. His work rate is outstanding and it’s not uncommon to hear United’s coaches bellowing ‘Hannibal’ from the touchline, not to berate him but to ensure his teammates follow his example.

MORECAMBE, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Hannibal Mejbri of Manchester United during the EFL Trophy match between Morecambe and Manchester United U21 at Mazuma Stadium on November 18, 2020 in Morecambe, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors.  Mejbri won two penalties for United U23 against Liverpool
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

It was that workrate that led to United’s second goal. Mejbri pressed well and when the ball was played around him, he continued chasing back and snatched the ball off of his opposite man. Looking up and seeing little space, he deftly backheeled to the forward-running Puigmal. Puigmal fed Hugill and the ex-Sunderland striker finished well. The goal was made, though, by Mejbri’s tenacity and flair. It summed him up.

Nothing is a lost cause with Hannibal, whether that is in terms of pressing and trying to win the ball back or when he has the ball himself, even when it appears he’s lost the ball, a flurry of footwork or a strong arm across sees him maintain possession. That footwork from Mejbri saw him win United two penalties in the second half.

Amad Diallo

It was his first appearance at any level for Manchester United and of course drew great interest. Diallo is quick in every part of his game: footwork, acceleration, pressing, passing. He’s always looking for the quickest route to goal and plays with a flair and confidence. His performance showed all of that.

His first goal was a result of front-foot pressing from Diallo and then a cool finish past Marcelo. The second was a penalty. Diallo scored with a panenka. Confidence, flair and quality.

It will be a very different challenge at first team level. Diallo will have less time, will come up against stronger players with a better understanding of where he’s going to move. But this was an excellent start to life at United.

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