United Youth

Manchester United Reserves & Academy News

Second string disappoint in goalless opener

Posted by nickogs20 on September 18, 2008

Man Utd Blackburn Rovers
Manchester United Reserves 0-0 Blackburn Rovers Reserves

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve side had to settle for a point from their first league game of the season as several players failed to perform to the standard they had set for themselves in pre-season. United never really got going in an attacking sense and the visitors had the better chances in a game arguably most notable for another injury to Reds keeper Ben Foster.

Fresh from Champions League bench duty last night, Foster started in goal as Solskjaer fielded the same back five as in the Reds’ last competitive game (the 2-0 MSC win over Bury), albeit with David Gray tucking inside at centre-half and Richard Eckersley patrolling the left flank. The five-man midfield behind lone striker Danny Welbeck was made up entirely of central midfielders, emphasising the terrific strength in depth in that position in the reserve and youth ranks but also the glaring lack of wide players available.

United started sloppily, Rodrigo Possebon in particular giving the ball away more in the first ten minutes than he usually does in a month. Blackburn looked strong and well-organised right from the off and carved out the game’s first goalscoring opportunity, the lively Doran getting to the byline and pulling the ball back to the unmarked Robbie Fowler. Thankfully the ex-Liverpool, Leeds and City forward is more portly pantomime villain than predatory marksman these days and his effort flew harmlessly over Foster’s crossbar.

That should have been a wake-up call for United but, a speculative curling effort from Cleverley aside, Blackburn continued to have the better of the possession and the chances. On 25 minutes the pacey Marshall was brought down by Gray just outside the area in an incident not too dissimilar to the much-publicised ones involving Nemanja Vidic and John Terry this week, and the visitors were somewhat aggrieved to see the referee react in the same way as Howard Webb did at Anfield last weekend, issuing just a yellow card to United’s Scottish defender. It was probably just the right decision, but it was probably the most borderline of the three incidents mentioned.

Fowler’s effort from the resulting freekick didn’t trouble Foster and, reprieved, United started to get a foothold in the game. The prodigously talented midfield started to string some passes together and Hewson forced Rovers’ keeper Bunn into his first save of the evening after Possebon’s freekick had rebounded off the wall and into his path. As the first half reached its climax both sides had their best chances of the game to date, Marshall forcing Foster into a fine save with his feet at the near post after a rapid counter-attack, while Hewson’s diving header from a Gibson cross just cleared the bar – the midfielder should really have done better.

Half-time: United 0 Blackburn 0

The hapless Fowler didn’t re-emerge after the break and you could say the same thing about both teams’ composure, neither side keeping possession effectively in what was an extremely scrappy opening to the second period. Foster was a spectator for the opening 10 minutes of the half but a freak injury was to ensure he would be reduced to spectating from the sidelines for the rest of the game and (unfortunately) weeks to come. The England keeper came out to comfortably claim a lofted ball into his area but jarred his ankle awkwardly upon landing – damaged ankle ligaments and a 6-8 week lay-off the unfortunate result for a player who just can’t catch a break at the moment.

Ron-Robert Zieler came on to replace Foster and was immediately thrust into the action in a crazy five-minute spell that the United defence was fortunate to survive unbreached. Rovers centre-half Nolan spurned the best opportunity of the entire match, glancing a free header wide of the post with the newly-introduced German well-beaten, before Zieler then produced a sensational save from Olsson (who was flagged offside, but the United keeper wasn’t to know that). James Chester then sold Zieler short with a backpass and was mightily relieved to see Haworth run the ball out of play while attempting to round RRZ.

After that hectic passage of play the game settled back down and Solskjaer introduced Cameron Stewart in a bid to inject some much-needed width and pace into the side. The 17 year-old made a notable difference and forced Blackburn onto the back foot, but the Reds still couldn’t carve out a genuine chance for the service-starved Welbeck or his late-introduced striker partner Kiko Macheda to grab what would have been an undeserved victory. A couple of testing long-range efforts from the otherwise disappointing Gibson and bookings for the Irishman and midfield colleague Hewson were the only incidents of note as the game petered out and ended in stalemate.

Full-time: United 0 Blackburn 0

Ian Brunskill’s Blackburn side were tricky opponents and a draw certainly isn’t a terrible outcome for Solskjaer and assistant Warren Joyce, but after such a promising pre-season campaign it is hard not to feel a sense of anti-climax. United never got going in an attacking sense, Welbeck spending the game isolated and starved of support of service from a midfield that, while full of ability, was massively lacking in width and genuine pace.

Below-par performances from Gibson and Possebon in particular didn’t help proceedings, and the Reds’ management team will be looking forward to welcoming Fábio and Daniel Galbraith back from injury and possibly fast-tracking Nicky Ajose, Chris Curran or Robbie Brady into the reserve set-up in a bid to give the team some much-needed width.

On the positive side, Rafael da Silva had an excellent game at right-back and will have done his chances of selection for the Carling Cup tie with Middlesbrough next week no harm at all. Skipper James Chester was also very good again and might have played himself into the reckoning for a place on the subs bench in that game. Both goalkeepers deserve credit as well.

1. Ben Foster (13. Ron-Robert Zieler 57)
2. Rafael da Silva
3. Richard Eckersley
4. David Gray
5. James Chester (c)
6. Darron Gibson
7. Rodrigo Possebon (12. Cameron Stewart 65)
8. Danny Drinkwater
9. Danny Welbeck
10. Sam Hewson (16. Federico Macheda 80)
11. Tom Cleverley

Subs not used
14. Corry Evans
15. Magnus Eikrem

Next up for the reserves is another home match against North-west opposition – Wigan Athletic travel to the Marstons Arena on October 2nd.


3 Responses to “Second string disappoint in goalless opener”

  1. JK said

    What is the main position of Tom Cleverley? I think I’ve seen him featuring at central midfield sometime…(im not so sure)

  2. nickogs20 said

    Central midfield has been his most regular position over the last year or so, he started out as a full-back.

  3. […] next match. We don’t have Ben Foster, he injured again in the last Reserve Match, this time he is for out for two-months. We still have Ben Amos, England Under-19 GK and of course we have […]

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