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Report: Manchester United 1-0 Middlesbrough – Barclays U21 Premier League 2015/16

Manchester United returned to Barclays U21 Premier League action on Monday evening, facing Middlesbrough in their final home match in the league this season. Currently trailing to Sunderland, who were also in action on Monday evening, but have played three more matches over United, the home side had the chance to play catch up again, something which they had been successful in earlier in the season, carving down the North East sides lead at the top of the league. Warren Joyce made some changes to his side with the return of Wayne Rooney, who has been on the sidelines for the past two months, a second appearance in as many weeks for Phil Jones, also making his comeback from his latest injury and Sam Johnstone, a player who has also been injured in recent weeks made his second appearance in a week for the United reserve side.

United started well in their last league match at Old Trafford this season knowing that they could have the season in the bag with a victory. Sunderland were 2-0 down inside 22 minutes in their match away to Tottenham Hotspur, which meant United could be within a point of being league leaders with a victory, with three matches remaining. The return of Rooney boosted Warren Joyce’s side, which will also boost the first team at a time where a boost is really needed. United found it hard to break down Boro, who are a stubborn side. James Weir came close to breaking the deadlock early in the first half, with Boro having a chance at the other end of the pitch.

Joe Rothwell suffered an injury in a challenge by Jonny Burn, which was a poor challenge. The player was sent off in the last meeting between the two sides earlier this evening and perhaps that should have been the same course of action for him in this match. In the 38th minute, Rothwell could not continue and was shortly replaced by Andreas Pereira, who needed to warm up before coming on. In the last few minutes of the first half, Pereira could have found United’s first goal, but took his eye off the ball and ended up losing possession. Paddy McNair had a speculative effort moments later, which was well of target. Three minutes of stoppage time were played at the end of the first half, which resulted in a 0-0 draw. Sunderland had got themselves a goal back in the other match to watch this evening, but they were still 2-1 behind with all to lose, despite leading the league for the majority of the season.

At the start of the second half, Sadiq El Fitouri replaced James Weir, United second substitution of the evening. Weir received a knock in the first half, felt it during the break and was too sore to continue. That was the big blow as he was one of, if not the best player in the first half. United started the second half well, looking for a goal to give something positive at the end of the season for United supporters. United won a free kick on the edge of the area, which Pereira, the captain in the second half, wanted to take but Rooney took it and it amounted to nothing with the ball going over the crossbar. United have a lot to do in order to change this result, but a draw is not the end of the world. Devonte Redmond had a great chance at the far post from a Pereira cross, but he could not get to the ball to make the difference.

On the 60th minute, Wayne Rooney was replaced by Axel Tuanzebe, who was making his return from injury, last playing for the U21’s in mid December, so it is time he was back and playing in the side. He was, in the early stages of the season, the most likely U21 player to make it into the first team this season, but injury seems to have curtailed that, for now at least. Spurs were still leading Sunderland 2-1 heading into the 68th minute at Old Trafford with United still needing a goal to take this match. Paddy McNair struck with a sublime finish to break the deadlock. United were 1-0 up and cruising to the league title, with only five points needed from four matches, including tonight, to win the league, providing Sunderland were beaten this evening.

In the final few minutes of the match, United looked resurgent on the attack and Pereira hit his shot from well out of the box striking the crossbar, which could have been United’s second goal of the evening, which would have seen Boro out of the match. United were still 1-0 up and looking for a second goal, but McNair’s 68th minute goal seemed to have done enough for the home side. Boro got a shot on goal moments after Pereira’s crossbar strike, but it was a poor shot which was off target. Pereira had another effort on goal from range, but the keeper got to the ball this time. Two minutes of injury time was added to the end of the match with news of Spurs scoring another goal against Sunderland, meaning the leaders have lost their final match of the season. United will finish this match a point behind them in the league, with three matches remaining. United won the match 1-0. Short on quality on the night, but it was a significant victory.

United face Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in a weeks time, then they play Southampton at St Mary’s. There is also a match against Chelsea to be scheduled, which will end the season for United. A win next week would see United retain the Barclays U21 Premier League after a consistent season for Warren Joyce’s side.

Goals: Paddy McNair 68′

Manchester United: Johnstone; Riley, Williams, Jones, Borthwick-Jackson; McNair, Love; Redmond, Rothwell (A. Pereira 39′), Weir (El Fitouri 46′); Rooney (Tuanzebe 60′)

Substitutes Not Used: J. Pereira, Poole

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