Manchester United’s U23 side faced Manchester City in the Premier League 2 at the Etihad on Friday night looking to get back to winning ways after a draw and a loss in their last two games. Going into the game City were two points ahead of United in the table. United made two changes to the side which drew with Chelsea with Kieran O’Hara replacing Sam Johnstone in goal and Charlie Scott replacing James Weir in midfield. There were also places on the bench for U18 players Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui, Ethan Hamilton, Max Dunne and D.J. Buffonge alongside Joshua Doughty.
The game began in a scrappy manner as both teams launching into challenges and giving away a number of free kicks in the opening stages. The first chance of the game fell to City in the seventh minute as Poole’s sliced clearance left Kongolo one-on-one with O’Hara but he fired high over the bar when he looked certain to score. Nemecha then went close a couple of minutes later but his shot was blocked by Tuanzebe and went out for a corner. It was City applying all the pressure in the opening 15 minutes as United struggled to keep possession.
After soaking up a lot of pressure United took the lead in the 25th minute as Willock picked up the ball outside the box and beat a couple of challenges before finishing well with his left foot. United’s tactical change of switching Willock and McTominay was working well as Willock went close again a few minutes later but his shot was lacking power and rolled wide. City’s Nemecha was causing problems for United whenever he got the ball and drew a foul from Poole in the 40th minute and from the resulting free kick City went close twice but United got bodies in the way of both efforts in a packed penalty area. United went in at half time leading 1-0.
The first chance of the second half fell to City as Dilrosun played a one-two with Diaz and fired a powerful shot from outside the box but his effort flew well wide. Diaz was causing United problems when he ran with the ball and won a free kick in a dangerous area in the 54th minute but his effort from the free kick was poor. United went close to extending their lead in the 59th minute as Tuanzebe intercepted on the edge of his own box and brought the ball forward before finding Mitchell who cut inside a defender and curled a shot towards the bottom corner but City’s goalkeeper did well to push the ball away and Harrop’s follow-up was blocked.
City drew level in the 63rd minute as Diaz picked up a loose ball on the right hand side and beat a challenge before curling a brilliant effort past O’Hara to make it 1-1. United responded to the goal by replacing the tiring Mitchell with Hamilton. A few minutes later United made another change with Scott being replaced by Buffonge who made his U23’s debut. United had a chance to retake the lead in the 72nd minute as Willock made another impressive run and found Harrop with a reverse pass but he took to long to get his shot away and the goalkeeper came out to smother the ball.
Dilrosun again tested O’Hara from long-range in the 75th minute before McTominay fired wide from long-range at the other end after good work down the left from Harrop and Hamilton to create the opportunity. City were putting a lot of pressure on in the closing stages and had a succession of corners without creating any clear-cut chances as United defended resolutely including an extremely impressive defensive header from El Fitouri to clear a dangerous cross. United made their final change in injury time as Max Dunne came on for his under 23s debut replacing Scott McTominay. There was one last chance for City to win the game in the 95th minute as a lucky bounce saw the ball fall to Diaz who was 1 on 1 with O’Hara but the keeper spread himself brilliantly to deny the Spaniard. The game finished 1-1 after some impressive defending from United.
Goals: Matty Willock 25′; Brahim Diaz 63′
Manchester United: O’Hara; El Fitouri, Poole, Tuanzebe, Riley; McTominay (Dunne 93′); Scott (Buffonge 69′), Redmond, Willock, Harrop; Mitchell (Hamilton 65′)
Substitutes Not Used: Moutha-Sebtaoui, Doughty
Bookings: Joe Riley 42′, Ethan Hamilton 81′