Manchester United’s U23’s faced an Arsenal side one place and two points behind them in the Premier League 2 table at Leigh Sports Village on Monday night. United were looking to get back to winning way after a draw and a loss in their last two games and were set to field an unchanged side from last week’s draw against Liverpool but McTominay was injured in the warm-up which meant Mitchell started. There was also a place on the bench for 17-year-old DJ Buffonge after his impressive start to the season with the U18 team.
United began the game brightly with Riley and Harrop particularly bright as they linked up down the left-hand side on multiple occasions in the opening minutes. United’s first chance of the game came in the sixth minute as Mitchell’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Harrop but the defender reacted well to clear for a corner. From the resulting corner United took the lead as the ball was flicked on by an Arsenal defender and found its way to RoShaun Williams at the back post and he headed in from close range for his first goal for the under 23’s.
There were appeals for an Arsenal penalty in the 15th minute as Tuanzebe made an important sliding tackle on Nketiah and the ball hit his arm but it would have been a harsh decision to give. Arsenal were improving as the game went on and were almost in again in the 19th minute as Nketiah looked to be through on goal but Poole read the play very well to make a last-ditch challenge. United almost got in for a second goal in the 3oth minute as Olosunde’s back heel found Willock running into the box but he smashed his cross across the face of goal when he needed to show more composure.
United should have been 2-0 ahead in the 42nd minute as Mitchell’s pass found Olosunde alone in the box but he was only able to hit the goalkeeper with the shot when he really should have scored. United then had another effort a minute later but El Fitouri screwed his shot wide from the edge of the box. Arsenal then went close to equalizing in first half injury time as the ball was pulled across the face of goal but Olosunde was in the right place to clear. United went in at half time leading 1-0.
United started the 2nd half just as brightly as they had the 1st and almost got in twice in the opening two minutes of the half as Redmond was denied by the goalkeeper coming off his line and then Harrop tested the goalkeeper from the edge of the box following a strong run. Arsenal then had an effort of their own as Hynes looked to get in down the left but was denied by a block from Tuanzebe. United went close twice in a minute in the 57th minute as Redmond’s shot lacked power and was easily saved and the Riley made a brilliant run down the left and pulled the ball across goal for Mitchell but his shot was scuffed and the defender cleared his effort.
United were creating most of the 2nd half chances and again went close in the 61st minute as Willock wriggled away from a couple of challenges and drove towards goal but his shot from the edge of the box was well dealt with by the goalkeeper. Joe Riley had been United’s best player in the second half and went close to scoring in the 65th minute as he got onto Harrop’s pass and cut inside the defender before firing a powerful effort at goal which the goalkeeper again did well to parry away. While the score was still only 1-0 Arsenal were always still in the game and went close to equalizing with their first shot on goal in the 67th minute but Johnstone got out quickly to deny Hynes from close range.
Despite United’s second half dominance, Arsenal were still looking dangerous and Regan Poole had to adjust himself very well to clear a dangerous cross when it looked like Arsenal were set to equalize. Following another fine pass from Riley, it was Harrop who stung the palms of the goalkeeper as he drifted inside from the left and fired a powerful effort at goal. United defended well in the closing minutes of the game to see out the game for a 1-0 win.
Goals: RoShaun Williams 7′
Manchester United: Johnstone; Williams, Poole, Tuanzebe, Riley; Redmond; El Fitouri, Harrop, Willock (Scott), Olosunde; Mitchell (Kehinde)
Substitutes Not Used: O’Hara, Whelan, Buffonge