Manchester United’s under-21’s secured their place in the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy with a valiant 2-1 win victory away to Doncaster Rovers.
Neil Wood’s side followed up impressive Group H wins against Rotherham and Lincoln with a battling win at the Keepmoat Stadium after going one goal down.
With Tahith Chong captaining the side and the talented Mason Greenwood spearheading their attack, United’s youngsters showed tremendous character and fighting spirit to beat the seventh placed League One side.
It was Greenwood who scored the 94th minute winner after an Ethan Galbraith thunderbolt brought the sides level.
Here are three things we learned from Tuesday nights clash.
Kovar will bounce back
Similar to the game against Lincoln, United’s young troops struggled to get a touch in the opening 20 minutes of the match, and if it wasn’t for Matej Kovar and some good fortune they could have found themselves 3-0 down in the opening 10 minutes.
In the sixth minute, Alfie May was denied by the Czech stopper, who used his quick reflexes to deny May with an outstretched leg.
Alex Kiwomya should have scored in the ninth minute but sent his header down into the ground and over the bar from close range after a perfect cross from former Red Devil Reece James.
Kovar’s best moment of the match came moments later with a brilliant point blank reaction save to keep out Joe Wright’s bullet header from a quickly taken corner.
However, on the hour mark, a strike from May straight at Kovar was fumbled by the 19-year-old and ended up in the back of the net.
Kovar’s team mates were astonished by their keeper’s error, especially with the man-of-the-match performances he had already produced against senior sides in this competition.
Luckily for United’s talented goalkeeper, individual moments of brilliance from Galbraith and Greenwood bailed him out.
That’s now two mistakes in two games now for Kovar after the Swansea error, but he will learn from the lack of concentration.
Game time is priceless
With Chong and Greenwood both starting many United fans may have expected them to be brought off at half-time and then have a chance of featuring against Chelsea.
But that didn’t materialise, the talented pair completed the full 90 minutes against a League One side that won their last league outing 7-1.
Neil Wood will be targeting silverware in this competition, and the most important thing for the likes of Chong and Greenwood is game time, which will bring sharpness, confidence and development.
Brandon Williams and James Garner have shown in recent weeks that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will give opportunities.
For Chong, Greenwood and possibly Angel Gomes their next first team outing could be next weeks Europa League home clash against Partizan Belgrade.
New leaders are emerging
Neil Wood has seen a lot of his talented players feature in the first team this season, but that hasn’t had an impact on form. They have now won five in a row.
United’s youngsters will be seeing their good mates moving up to the first team level and given opportunities to stake their claim. Solskjaer has given the club’s academy prospects a chance to be blooded into the first team.
In the absence of Garner and Dylan Levitt, it was Galbraith who created a moment of magic to bring United back into the game with an absolute piledriver on the edge of the box.
The Northern Irishman seemed to relish being United’s main midfield man and was always eager to get on the ball no matter who he around him.
The goal took his performance to a new level as he dictated the tempo, produced intricate passing to create chances and was always looking forward in possession.
At the age of 17 and playing against League One forwards, Teden Mengi produced a commanding and dominant performance. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he made his first team debut this season. He is that good.
The partnership with 19-year-old Di’Shon Bernard is developing with every passing game, and the pair will be hoping to be playing alongside each other in the first team some day.
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