After the highs of a 6-0 win over Salford City a week ago, Manchester United’s under-23 side came back down to earth with a defeat to Leicester.
The match was a chastening night for the youngsters, who went up against the team who finished second in the top tier last season.
United were without Teden Mengi, who was not involved, but fielded a strong team with James Garner, Hannibal Mejbri and Ethan Galbraith starting.
Leicester deserved their win, but…
Leicester hit the post twice in the opening 15 minutes and caused problems for United.
United’s youngsters did not create enough, taking 40 minutes to have a shot on target, when both Hannibal Mejbri and Anthony Elanga had late chances saved.
Di’Shon Bernard defended well, but when he attempted a clearance with a powerful boot upfield, the ball cannoned off James Garner’s back into Ali Reghba’s path, for the striker to score.
Reghba was fortunate to be on the pitch after a high tackle in the first half which saw him booked.
Defender Mitchell Clark then pushed Hannibal Mejbri to the ground in an off the ball scuffle, picked up a booking, before going on to score an impressive individual goal. He again was lucky to be on the pitch.
United have some improving to do
This was a fairly young United side with many of this team part of the FA Youth Cup team, more used to playing under-18s football.
Leicester seemed stronger physically and this was a taste of what is to come, and United need to improve.
Hannibal Mejbri and Ethan Galbraith did not get enough of the ball in midfield, and both have to become more imposing on the game.
James Garner impressed with a strong array of passing, but he could not find a cutting edge.
Anthony Elanga looked bright on the left-wing and was United’s biggest goal threat. Mark Helm struggled more, playing out of position up front.
Also out of position were United’s full-backs. Centre-back Luca Ercolani started at right-back, while midfielder Martin Svidersky filled in at left-back.
Neil Wood told MUTV before the game that minor injuries against Salford prompted the changes, with Ethan Laird, Reece Devine and Arnau Puigmal among those missing, along with Mengi, who did play for the first team at the weekend.
Matej Kovar’s loan to Swindon Town has opened up new competition in goal for the under-23s.
Nathan Bishop got the nod against Salford, and Ondrej Mastny started his first competitive under-23s game against Leicester last night.
The Czech prospect was a regular in the FA Youth Cup side and at 18, he did not look out of place at this level.
He did particularly well early to come out and catch a cross, before looking sharp to make a couple of fine second half saves.
Mastny could do little about Leicester’s goals, and should have left the stadium disappointed with the result, but satisfied with his own individual showing. United have yet another talented young goalkeeper on the books.
Also making his first under-23s appearance was substitute Shola Shoretire, who came on in the 66th minute.
Shoretire, 16, had a few bright touches and looked busy, without quite providing a cutting edge.
His involvement showed United’s coaching staff are going to challenge him to make a quick step up this season, after impressing in the Youth Cup.
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