Second string up and running after convincing win
Posted by nickogs20 on October 8, 2008
|Bolton Wanderers Reserves||0-3||Manchester United Reserves|
In hindsight, United’s reserve side probably couldn’t have hand-picked a better fixture in which to make amends for last week’s defeat against Wigan. The Reds had picked up five wins and two draws from their previous seven trips to the County Ground to play Bolton (as well as lifting the Lancashire Senior Cup at the same ground in July of this year) and, after a scrappy first-half had ended with Kiko Macheda putting United ahead, they never looked in any danger of having that unbeaten streak ended. Further goals from Sam Hewson and Tom Cleverley in a massively one-sided second half ensured a first league win of the campaign for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
As mentioned in the preview, a spate of injuries and international call-ups forced Solskjaer to make several changes and name a youthful-looking side. U18 regulars Macheda, Matty James, Cameron Stewart (a first reserve league start) and Oliver Gill (making his reserves debut) were all included in the starting eleven, while the bench was fully comprised of their Academy peers. Elsewhere, Tomasz Kuszczak returned from injury in goal and the lack of a first-team match this week saw the (presumably temporary) return of Rafael da Silva to reserve level.
The less said about the first 45 minutes the better, frankly. To use a terrible cliché, the first half was all perspiration and no inspiration, with the hectic nature of the game not lending itself to attractive or productive football. Both sides had just the one real chance each, Macheda firing straight at keeper Lainton after a neat one-two with Hewson while Kuszczak and Richard Eckersley combined to foil Obadeyi and Woolfe down the other end.
Solskjaer and his assistant Warren Joyce will have been preparing a stern team-talk and possible changes when a moment of fortune decisively changed the game seconds before the break. Jimmy Derbyshire, employed in an unfamiliar left-sided midfield role, cut inside onto his favoured right foot and let fly from 25 yards. His strike may well have troubled Lainton anyway but took a wicked deflection off Trotters centre-half Stokes, time seemingly then standing still as it looped goalwards and hit the post. Goalkeeper and defence looked on dumbstruck but Macheda reacted as all good centre-forwards should, comfortably getting to the rebound first and showing great composure to side-foot the ball past the recovering keeper to register his first reserve goal of the season.
The content of the half-time team-talk probably didn’t change much but the mood and confidence of the team improved significantly. An early scare when a Ricardo Vaz Te effort spun narrowly wide aside, the second half saw this United reserve side at its best – fluent, creative, quick to attack and absolutely dominant with possession. The second goal didn’t take long to come, Macheda again at the heart of things as his pinpoint left-wing cross was flicked on by James and then instantly controlled by Hewson before the Bolton-born United midfielder rifled home.
The result was in no doubt at all at that point but a clinching third followed just over ten minutes later, definitely the goal of the game. A slick passing move involving Derbyshire, Rafael and Macheda eventually saw the ball worked to Cleverley 25 yards out, who curled a sublime effort past the motionless Lainton. Cleverley’s only two previous reserve league goals had come in this fixture last season while the midfielder was also on the scoresheet in that LSC Final win over Liverpool in July – there’s clearly something about the County Ground that agrees with him!
Further goals could and probably should have followed. Rafael could easily have had a penalty, Oliver Norwood (on as sub) came close to capping a sensational passing move involving practically the whole side with a curling left-footed strike which dipped just over the bar, and David Gray headed straight at the keeper after another James flick-on. No matter – three goals was enough to secure a very welcome first win of the campaign.
More pleasing than the three points to Solskjaer and Joyce will be the performance. OGS praised the effort and work-rate of his team in his post-match interview, also speaking in glowing tones about the second-half showing as the Reds took control. Ole didn’t want to single out individuals for praise and after such a good team performance I’m loathe to as well, but what the hell…
Macheda produced his best performance of the season so far, despite being somewhat starved of service in the first half. The Italian linked play intelligently, worked hard as the lone striker and took his goal coolly. Tom Cleverley and Sam Hewson looked much more like the players we know they can be, while Matty James was typically unfazed by stepping up a level, perhaps even overshadowing his more experienced midfield colleagues.
Everyone’s interested in how Rafael’s doing so it would be remiss not to mention the young Brazilian. He had one of his quieter games but was extremely solid defensively and got more and more involved going forward as the game wore on and United’s confidence grew. His defensive colleagues deserve praise, ‘makeshift’ centre-halves Gray and Eckersley dealing relatively comfortably with the very real threat posed by Vaz Te while Oliver Gill, after a bit of a mare for the Academy at the weekend, looked far more at home at a higher level – no mean feat.
1. Tomasz Kuszczak
2. Rafael da Silva
3. Richard Eckersley
4. David Gray
5. Oliver Gill
6. Matty James
7. Cameron Stewart (12. Oliver Norwood 71)
8. Tom Cleverley
9. Federico Macheda (16. Antonio Bryan 78)
10. Sam Hewson
11. Jimmy Derbyshire (14. Scott Wootton 78)
Subs not used
13. Gary Woods
15. Evandro Brandão
The reserves are in action again in just five days, as Oldham make the trip to the Marstons Arena to provide the opposition for the next stage of United’s Manchester Senior Cup defence.