Another weekend saw another poorly scheduled under-23 match where Manchester United fans were concerned.
United kicked off against City on the same evening the first team were in action, just like the previous Monday night when the under-23s faced Tottenham, as the FA Cup third round got underway.
The way the first half of Saturday’s match panned out, United fans probably got a lucky break not being able to watch it.
Manchester City had raced into a three goal lead by half-time, scoring each of their goals in a seven minute stretch as United’s backline wilted, giving away a penalty amid the collapse.
For what happened next, United deserve a bit of credit, rallying and going onto win the second half.
City had already beaten United 4-2 back in August at under-23 level, and at 3-0 down at half-time, there was a worry the scoreline could get embarrassing.
United rallied well, switching Charlie Wellens out at half-time and bringing on Marc Jurado.
Joe Hugill scored a consolation for United in the second half to back up the Red Devils improvement, and see the game end 3-1.
It was still an unsatisfactory result which showed how far off the under-23s are from City’s standard-setters. United rank seventh in the table.
Three things learned from under-23 defeat
Mengi and Elanga are missed: The best stretch of the season for the under-23s came between September and early December. Teden Mengi and Anthony Elanga were not involved for the side in August, when the side were beaten by City.
And now with Mengi out on loan at Birmingham and Elanga with the first team, United’s under-23s are without their best defender and best attacker once again, and it showed. Amad was not involved either, and he could probably use the game time, while Hannibal is away at the AFCON.
Absences are a chance for others to step up, but City simply outmatched United and were the superior team.
Hugill back on the scoresheet: It was good to see Joe Hugill back on the scoresheet after two months out with an injury.
This was the first goal Hugill has scored for the under-23s in the league this season. He has six total goals, with three for the under-18s, plus one in the EFL Trophy and one in the UEFA Youth League.
After scoring 16 in total last season, he will be looking to now kick on in 2022 and this goal can get him back on track.
Shoretire assists again: Shola Shoretire has been the under-23s most consistent player this season and it was his pass which set up Hugill’s consolation goal.
Shoretire now has six assists in all competitions, matched only by Alvaro Fernandez, and he has a further seven goals, including UEFA Youth League strikes.
His assist tally has already matched his contribution last season, and he is just three goals shy of catching his goal numbers.
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