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U21 Report: Manchester United 3-2 West Ham United – Barclays U21 Premier League

Manchester United’s U21’s returned to action on Tuesday night after a three week break from competitive action as they faced West Ham United at Leigh Sports Village. United were looking to consolidate top spot in a very close Barclays U21 Premier League with only five points separating first and tenth place. As has been the case all season there were a few first team members on show with Rafael da Silva, Paddy McNair, Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson all in the starting line up and places on the bench for U18 standouts Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

The early possession was all United as West Ham looked to sit back and defend in numbers and use the pace of Brown on the break. United were passing the ball around without really going anywhere in the opening stages and went behind in the 14th minute as 16-year-old Reece Oxford got on the end of a free kick to head home as United keeper Joel Castro Pereira rushed from his goals and got caught in no mans land.  It was proving to be a night of goalkeeping mistakes as United drew level in the 22nd minute as Josh Harrop’s low shot lacked power but somehow squeezed past the keeper to make the score 1-1.

United were ahead a minute later as United cleared a West Ham corner and McNair sprinted forward and won a challenge on the half way line before playing a brilliant 40 yard through ball which Joe Rothwell did very well to get to and finished calmly past the keeper to put United 2-1 ahead. United were starting to look more up for the game and almost went 3-1 ahead as Januzaj was fouled on the edge of the box by Poyet before having his free kick deflected narrowly wide. Januzaj again went close from a free kick in the 35th minute this time seeing the keeper push his well struck effort wide for a corner.

The defensive errors continued with the fourth goal of the game as a long aimless ball forward from West Ham lead to a calamitous mistake as Love’s back pass beat the onrushing Pereira and left West Ham’s Brown with an open goal to tap into to make it 2-2 in the 44th minute. The first half action wasn’t over however as Januzaj was hauled down on the right-wing and with everyone waiting for a cross Januzaj shot to the near post which drew a very good save from the West Ham keeper. After an error strewn first half the sides went in level at 2-2 at half time.

The opening stages of the 2nd half were very scrappy as neither team were able to gain a real foothold in the game and no real chances created with Wilson’s shot from the edge of the box in the 55th minute the best either side could muster up until the 63rd when United retook the lead from yet another error as the West Ham keeper Howes dropped Januzaj’s corner which allowed Harrop to poke the ball home from close range to make the score 3-2. United should have been further ahead in the 68th minute as Januzaj dispossessed the West Ham defender on the edge of the box but lacked the composure in his finish which flew over the bar.

James Wilson had been relatively quiet by his standards but went close twice in the space of 30 seconds in the 78th minute as his shot was well blocked by Burke before Wilson sent a bicycle kick wide from the resulting corner. United made a double change in the 85th minute with Weir and Tuanzebe replacing Wilson and Rothwell as Warren Joyce looked to solidify things for the final minutes. Joel Pereira went some way towards redeeming himself as he claimed two dangerous free kicks in injury time to help United see out the game and claim a 3-2 win which sees them go four points clear at the top of the table.

Manchester United: J.Pereira, Rafael, McNair, Love, Kellett, Rothwell (Tuanzebe), Grimshaw, Harrop, Goss, Januzaj, Wilson (Weir) Substitutes Not Used: O’Hara, Fosu-Mensah, Willock

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