Crewe 2 United 1: Under-18s are dominant but defeated as Pogba makes debut
Posted by nickogs20 on October 12, 2009
October 10th 2009, 11am
Gresty Road, Crewe
|Crewe Alexandra U18s||2-1||Manchester United U18s|
|Oswell 48, 66||–||W. Keane 90|
It’ll take some time for Paul McGuinness and his young charges to work out exactly how they contrived to lose at Gresty Road this morning. In essence the answer is a relatively simple one – they struggled to create genuine chances and couldn’t convert the ones they did engineer, while their opponents Crewe Alexandra had no such problems. Nonetheless, to lose a game after dominating possession and territory to the extent the Reds did today and still fall to defeat is a definite headscratcher.
United had by far the best of a scoreless first-half but were caught cold early in the second 45 as Crewe’s big #9 Jason Oswell glanced home a devilish cross, and while McGuinness’ side continued to dominate and probe for goals of their own, they were caught by another sucker punch with 25 minutes remaining as Oswell bagged his second in spectacular fashion. The young Reds battled on gamely but were frustrated by Crewe’s resolute backline and the excellent Daniel Platt in goal, only eventually making a breakthrough in injury time through Will Keane, whose tap-in was ultimately merely a consolation goal.
The big team news was the inclusion of Paul Pogba for a competitive debut. The summer signing from Le Havre finally received clearance to play from FIFA in midweek, and while he enjoyed a brief runout in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday, this was the first chance for United fans to see the much-hyped midfielder in action. He partnered the ever-present Ryan Tunnicliffe in the centre of the park, with Larnell Cole dropping to the bench and Etzaz Hussain unfortunately sidelined with a shoulder injury.
There was another new face in between the sticks – as we reported yesterday, Port Vale ‘keeper Daniel Lloyd-Weston took his place in goal for the first of a two-game trial, with Conor Devlin away on international duty with Northern Ireland U19s and Sam Johnstone nursing a slight knock.
There were further changes as well, Sean McGinty coming in for Scott Wootton to partner Michele Fornasier at the heart of defence, Ravel Morrison replacing John Cofie in attack, and Nicky Ajose taking the left-wing spot and the captain’s armband from Robbie Brady. The three stepping down were all included among the substitutes, but may have been rested with possible Reserves action on Monday in mind.
It’s no real exaggeration to say that within ten minutes it was apparent just why United were so keen to bring Pogba on board (and why Le Havre were so keen to keep hold of him) – his physique, posture and running style immediately elicited obvious but unavoidable comparisons with Patrick Vieira, while – perhaps surprisingly for someone described as a defender/defensive midfielder – his ability on the ball really stood out. Even with opposition players around him he rarely seemed in danger of losing the football, showing terrific composure and plenty of skill.
An eye for a pass was also very soon in evidence, crisp short passing complimented by elegantly-sprayed longer deliveries, not to mention a couple of brilliantly incisive through-balls which deserved better results than they brought. And when not in possession, the resemblance to Vieira came to mind again with an uncanny ability to stick out an almost telescopic leg and win the ball back. The 16 year-old’s talent was glaringly obvious and his impact immediate, the early signs suggesting that all the legal hassle surrounding his transfer has been very much worth it.
The young Frenchman was the focus of attention, but it wasn’t just a one-man show as United took the game to Crewe in the early stages. Tunnicliffe in particular dovetailed excellently with the new recruit while Ajose looked threatening every time he recieved the ball out on the left flank. The football was excellent at times, but the final pass or shot was just lacking, with Keane’s natural tendency to drop deep often leaving the Reds without a genuine frontman.
United’s best chance of the half did fall to Keane, but the England U17 international was just unable to get up high enough to nod home at the far post after Tom Thorpe had flicked on Ajose’s corner. Otherwise, the best efforts from the visitors came from long range, with Pogba and Morrison narrowly off target with well-struck shots and Tunnicliffe twice forcing Alex ‘keeper Platt into action, albeit of the fairly routine variety.
As the half wore on and no tangible reward for United’s superiority was forthcoming, Crewe began to grow in confidence and play some attractive stuff themselves. Fornasier in particular was reading the game well from the back and dealing with much of the home side’s threat adeptly, but the counter-attacking nature of most of Crewe’s forays forward started to pose occasional problems, typically via a combination of the pace and crossing of Alex Titchener (who scored twice in this fixture last season) and the physical presence of centre-forward Oswell. It was that pair who combined for comfortably the best chance created by either side in the first half, as the latter flicked the former’s cross across the face of goal, where Oswell’s strike partner was inches away from converting at the back post.
Second half report to follow…
1. Daniel Lloyd-Weston
2. Tom Thorpe
3. Zeki Fryers
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Sean McGinty
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Jesse Lingard (12. Larnell Cole 63)
8. Paul Pogba
9. Will Keane
10. Ravel Morrison
11. Nicky Ajose (c)
Sub not used
14. John Cofie
15. Scott Wootton
16. Robbie Brady
Ref: D A Croft