Manchester United’s U21′s tonight held on to second place in the Barclays U21 Premier League Elite Group table with a 1-1 draw against 10-man Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Jonjo Shelvey struck home a superb effort to put the visitors 1-0 up just before his team-mate Stephen Sama was red carded. The visitors were lucky not to be down to nine men after Shelvey who was already shown a yellow card, committed another foul.

United battled throughout the match but failed to equalise before the 81st minute, not for the want of trying. The equaliser came when James Wilson had the ball and shot towards goal, the shot deflected off Flanagan and into the back of the net. Tonight’s 1-1 draw means that United will have home advantage when the two sides meet in the semi-final of the competition at Old Trafford.

It was sure to be an explosive match this evening just because of the teams involved. United and Liverpool have one of the biggest rivalries in the country. After Shelvey scored his 25-yard stunner, Adnan Januzaj released Ryan Tunnicliffe for a burst forward. Sama committed a blatant foul on the young midfielder. He was also sent off in the reverse fixture earlier this year at St Helens.

United spent most of the match with an extra man, yet it seemed so much harder for them to get anything from the match. It was the same only a week last Friday against Wolves. Warren Joyce’s side don’t have and out-and-out striker as they are on loan with other clubs right now, which meant United had no real attacking power up front, which gave Liverpool the advantage, as did dropping deep inside their own half.

Januzaj and Tyler Blackett had a moment that raised the cheers of the crowd but Blackett’s cross bobbled to Jesse Lingard whose shot was blocked by Andre Wisdom. Lingard had another run minutes later which was again ended by some calm defending by Wisdom, who is proving himself to be quite a talent in defence. Ben Amos also had to keep alert with Suso on the attack on a rare breakaway from United’s defence.

Shelvey could have been sent for an early bath after he fouled Januzaj in full flow on the attack, but he somehow avoided another card for that challenge. United dominated during the second half but it was in the last 10 minutes when they stepped up their game and looked for that equalising goal.

Tom Lawrence was caught offside a few times after he entered the fray as a second half substitute. He was also fouled inside the penalty area but Wisdom. Danny Ward was also called into some rare action to make a save from a Larnell Cole shot, which he did very simply. Lingard also found some space to force Ward into a diving stop and he did the same again minutes later, which was a less comfortable save for the Liverpool keeper.

Jesse Lingard was on a one man mission to find a goal for United to save some face from this match. Each time he had a shot it was either off target or saved. The equalising goal came as Tunnicliffe and Vermijl played well on the right and the cross was touched by James Wilson towards goal and was buried in the back of the net by Flanagan

After the goal was scored, there was still nine minutes left for United to find the winner. Lawrence’s shot was pushed over the crossbar by Ward after he cut in with some menace looking for the winning goal. the ten-man Liverpool side were not holding out for a point but it came very close to them going back home to Liverpool with nothing.

Manchester United: Amos; Vermijl, Thorpe, Fornasier, James; Cole, Ekangamene (Pearson 73), Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Blackett (Lawrence 46); Januzaj (Wilson 69) Substitutes Not Used: Sutherland, Grimshaw

By Paul Bienkowski

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