Manchester United U23’s faced Reading at Adams Park in a tough challenge, as the opponents had involved three first team players in their Starting XI, making this a strong lineup. On the other side, Nicky Butt started with a strong lineup, an attacking side but yet not involving a natural striker, playing with Gribbin as a false ‘9’, who made his second U23’s appearance this season after being injured for three months.
As the game started, Reading had their first chance in the second minute creating an early panic in the United’s zone and both Kieran O’Hara and Poole saved United. However, United get back easily in the game as Gribbin had a shot blocked by Hyam three minutes earlier. Joe Riley pulled off with a hamstring injury in 20th minute being replaced by Sadiq El Fitouri. During the first half, United were dominant, keeping the ball, pressing well and creating chances but it was Reading who found the net with Dominic Hyam after another mess at the United zone and Kieran O’Hara couldn’t do much to avoid that Reading goal.
That was a wake-up call for United as four minutes later, Gribbin stealing the ball from Jules obliged the keeper to make a challenge on him and United were rewarded a penalty and the Reading keeper should’ve seen the red but he wasn’t booked at all. Another controversial decision from the referees against United, this time in the U23’s side. Joshua Harrop stepped up and scored the penalty to level the game. As Reading put the game under way, within 10 seconds, Callum Gribbin took advantage of another Reading defensive error, passed to Harrop and the latter gave United the lead.
A well-deserved lead as United was dominant during the first half. The game was all about United as Gribbin was controlling the ball really well linking with the squad. A thrilling match so far and the United defense surely had to do a lot of work as they were constantly under threat with Tuanzebe causing a few fouls, yet defending brilliantly.
As the second game was under way Joshua Harrop could have easily made it three with another chance but was denied again. Since coming up for Joe Riley in the first half, El Fitouri wasn’t settling well and caused another foul with the referee this time showing him the yellow card, clearly meaning that he would be more careful in the other interceptions he would make.
Differently from the first half, Gribbin and Harrop were quiet with both United players not being able to touch the ball and step forward. Reading found the equalizer with Mendes after a disappointing marking from the United defense and Kieran O’Hara yet again was unable to save it. The United keeper certainly had more work to do in the second half as the defence wasn’t settling well apart from Tuanzebe.
It was certainly a nervy game with Sean Goss constantly hitting the bar and not finding the leading goal for United. It is worth to mention that the goals tonight from United have come straight from defensive errors and not a pure build up play. Yet, the sparks were there as Scott McTominay almost converted a brilliant Goss ball into a goal but was cleared out soon. Having had a few issues tonight by handling the Reading skippers Poole was substituted for Olosunde, while the best player on the pitch for United, Callum Gribbin came off as well for Demetri Mitchell. Mitchell could’ve easily won this for United but wasn’t able to break through the keeper. However United must be happy with the result as after a bad O’Hara’s positioning, Reading couldn’t finish with an empty net only finding the post and then Tuanzebe cleared the ball away.
The Reserves are still looking for their first away victory and are struggling to produce and score. However, it was a thrilling game that could’ve seen both sides get the three points but no one pulled the winner. United in need of a clinical striker for this side, react to that Sunderland defeat last Monday. Things surely need to change for them.
Goals: Josh Harrop 28′ penalty, 29′
Manchester United: O’Hara; Williams, Tuanzebe, Poole (Olosunde 85′), Riley (El-Fitouri 21′); Willock Redmond, Goss; Harrop, McTominay, Gribbin (Mitchell 84′)
Substitutes Not Used: Moutha-Sebtaoui, Kehinde