Manchester United U23s made it two wins on the bounce with a free-flowing attacking performance away to Brighton & Hove Albion in Premier League 2.
A scintillating first-half display from Neil Wood’s United showed all the qualities that have been simmering in this team all season. They’ve endured a tough beginning to the campaign as a young team coming up against good opposition.
This result is the second much-needed confidence boost in the space of a fortnight having recently beaten Everton in the last-minute.
United U23s dominate first half with three-at-the-back
Wood set up his United side in a 3-5-2 formation. It was a system that enjoyed success against Everton and provides a good learning experience for the team. United dominated the midfield battle.
In Hannibal Mejbri (17) and Ethan Galbraith (19), United have two midfielders who are talented in very different ways but who both just love being on the ball. Together, they’re a joy to watch.
It was Mejbri who gave United the lead, receiving a through-ball from Arnau Puigmal, taking a couple of touches on the left side of the box and poking it home with his right boot. It was a deserved early lead.
Video: Hannibal Mejbri gives Manchester United U23s lead vs Brighton
Shola Shoretire soon doubled United’s lead. The 16-year-old took advantage of a defensive mistake from Brighton as their goalkeeper’s poor touch gifted United possession and an opportunity at goal. That was Shoretire’s first goal for the U23s.
Mejbri saw a long shot parried while Helm hit a powerful shot over the crossbar. United’s dominance was unquestionable. Helm made up for the missed chance quickly, finishing off a wonderful team goal. Puigmal crossed delicately across the face of goal and Helm tapped it home.
Video: Mark Helm finishes off great Man United U23s team goal
Brighton came out for the second half much improved. Their energy was up and attacking moves more precise and threatening. In the first two minutes after half-time, two dangerous crossed threatened United. But Wood’s team didn’t learn their lesson from the opposition’s multiple missed chances.
Brighton grab two goals back in manic second-half spell
Helm gave away a penalty which Jensen Weir, who faced United in last season’s FA Youth Cup while at Wigan Athletic, dispatched well past Paul Woolston. 47 seconds later, he had his second goal. United had been heavily punished for two moments of poor defending. The second was a tap-in at the far post.
Having given away a 3-1 lead to Arsenal a couple of weeks ago, the two conceded goals were a serious concern. But they responded well. Alvaro Fernandez drove forward a number of times to drag his side out of defence and re-establish themselves as the dominant force in the match.
Alvaro Fernandez drags United back into ascendancy
It was he who grabbed the fourth, pushing the ball forward past the halfway line and continuing into space. Brighton’s defence opened up and Fernandez – a summer signing from Real Madrid – struck it powerfully with his right foot from the edge of the box.
The three-goal lead that United had headed into half-time with was soon re-established too. Fernandez once more was involved – pushing forward from the left-wing-back position and feeding Arnau Puigmal.
United’s first had come from Puigmal’s through-ball to Mejbri. This time it was reversed. Mejbri fed Puigmal and he finished for a much-deserved goal after a fine performance.
United continued to search for goals. Charlie McCann’s 91st-minute effort was deflected wide by the finest margin.
The sixth goal never came but it was an excellent performance and United’s U23s are now four unbeaten in Premier League 2. That’s despite playing these recent games without Teden Mengi, Brandon Williams, Di’shon Bernard and other key players.
- Amad Diallo’s Manchester United debut is looking more and more likely
- Three Portugal based players Manchester United should be monitoring
- Manchester United said to be keen on Bayern youngster Jamal Musiala
- Lindelof’s Anfield display is all the more impressive after Solskjaer admission
- Phil Neville has a harsh reminder for son Harvey after under-23 defeat
- Pogba hailed by Maguire and Solskjaer after match-winning performance
- Two Manchester United players are becoming cause for concern
- United win first game with Fred and Pogba pivot in 90 minutes since 2019
- Manchester United’s three best players against Fulham