U18s: United 5 Bolton 1 – Reds run riot with sensational second-half performance
Posted by nickogs20 on November 10, 2009
November 7th 2009, 11am
Trafford Training Centre, Carrington
|Manchester United U18s||5-1||Bolton Wanderers U18s|
|W. Keane 28||–||Sampson 85|
|Pogba 90 (pen)||–||–|
A week in the Maltese sun clearly had the desired effect on United’s U18 side as they thrashed a strong Bolton Wanderers side 5-1 at Carrington to move into second place in Academy League Group C.
One of the form teams in academy football, the visitors arrived at Carrington in optimistic mood and gave pretty much as good as they got in the first 45 minutes, only to be blown away after the break by a scintillating display of attacking football that saw Ravel Morrison and Ryan Tunnicliffe add to Will Keane’s first half opener before Larnell Cole and Paul Pogba completed the scoring with their first U18 goals either side of a bizarre late consolation goal for the Trotters’ Jack Sampson.
The big team news was the presence of Davide Petrucci in the starting lineup, a first academy league start since Valentines Day for the gifted Italian. Playing in his preferred role behind the striker (John Cofie in this case), the 18 year-old also took the captain’s armband, with regular skipper Robbie Brady absent after picking up an injury on the academy’s trip to Malta and his usual deputy Scott Wootton suspended after a red card in the reserve derby in midweek.
Elsewhere, Michele Fornasier and Tom Thorpe made up the centre-back partnership, with Zeki Fryers restored to the left-back berth after missing the Wolves game and Alberto Massacci contining on the other side of the defence. Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba continued in central midfield, while Will Keane took up an unfamiliar position wide right, opposite Nicky Ajose. On the other side of the ball, there was a familiar name in the form of Liam Irwin, son of Denis, who was an interested observer on the touchline.
A largely scrappy first half gave little indication of what was to come after the interval, with neither goalkeeper really being unduly threatened. Cofie and Bolton’s Adam Blakeman went close with efforts from range early on and the latter stages of the half saw the Reds escape somewhat fortunately without conceding a penalty after Ajose appeared to clearly handle inside the box, but the really decisive moments of the opening period came midway through, as United momentarily found their passing rhythm and Cofie really posed problems for the visiting defence.
That defence were given ample warning of the Ghana-born forward’s pace and power when he broke clear down the left and forced a fine diving save from Wanderers’ keeper Jay Lynch, but they failed to take heed of that warning. Just before the half-hour Cofie got in behind the defence again and with the Bolton defence appealing in vain for offside, the big striker bore down on goal and skipped around Lynch, who could only bring him down. Referee Young was surely poised to point to the spot (and almost certainly produce a red card), but the alert Keane saved him the bother, following up to tap into the empty net in a manner eerily reminiscent of Andy Cole in the Stadio delle Alpi in that famous Champions League Semi-Final second leg of April 1999.
With Cofie looking to be the most dangerous player on the park in that opening forty-five minutes, Paul McGuinness’ decision to replace him with Ravel Morrison at the break was somewhat surprising. Whether there was an injury or illness involved we don’t know (Cofie missed the Malta trip through illness so may not be fully recovered), but whatever the reason, the decision was to be entirely vindicated thereafter.
The Reds immediately signalled their intent after the restart, with Petrucci coming to the fore after a relatively quiet first half. His eye-of-the-needle pass released Ajose to put in a cross that Keane was just able to direct goalwards, and the Italian then popped up on the right side of the box to turn Bolton’s leftback inside and out with some mesmeric dribbling and control before putting in a cross that was scrambled clear. A second United goal was imminent, and when it came on 52 minutes, the only surprise was that Petrucci wasn’t involved. Instead the architect was Will Keane, who skipped past two challenges outside the box before cleverly playing in Morrison, whose finish was the epitome of cool.
A third goal wasn’t long in coming either, and it was probably the pick of the bunch. Ajose seemed to lose the ball in attempting to dribble past his marker on the left-flank, but the 18 year-old’s persistence saw him regain possession at the byline and clip a cross to the back post, where an unmarked Tunnicliffe lashed a fearsome half-volley past the helpless Lynch and into the far corner.
With the game to all intents and purposes in the bag, Petrucci was withdrawn with another 69 valuable minutes under his belt, Larnell Cole taking his place in midfield. That wasn’t an indication of the Reds easing off though, far from it – just five minutes later they made it 4-0, and it was the newly-arrived substitute who did the honours. Cole’s pace allowed him to latch onto Keane’s fantastic through-ball, race clear of the defence and slide the ball past Lynch for his first goal at U18 level.
Bolton were entirely demoralised by this point, and the game had become one of those where every player on the dominant side fancies his chance of getting on the scoresheet, Alberto Massacci notable in this instance with a rampaging run forward and low strike that was well saved by Lynch. Morrison, by now going through his full repertoire of tricks, was also foiled by the Wanderers stopper.
In fairness to the visitors, they didn’t completely chuck the towel in. A rare foray forward earned them a corner, and from that they dashed United’s hopes of a clean sheet and at least bagged themselves a consolation goal, albeit in slightly fortuitous fashion. A right-wing corner was fizzed into the near post where it appeared to deflect off Sampson’s back and past Conor Devlin. The Bolton forward was a rumoured summer target for the Reds but had been largely starved off service on this occasion, and it’s unlikely that effort did too much to alleviate his frustration.
McGuinness’ side could have been forgiven for coasting through the last five minutes after that but almost seemed to take that consolation strike as an insult, pouring forward as the clock ticked down in a bid to restore their four-goal cushion. When Zeki Fryers burst into the box in the final minute looking for his own moment of glory, Bolton’s Eckersley presented the Reds with a chance to do just that from the penalty spot with an incredibly clumsy tackle on the United left-back. The referee somewhat harshly showed Eckersley the red card – there was at least one defender well-placed to cover – before Pogba, impressive again in midfield, converted the most nonchalant of spot-kicks to get off the mark as a United player and put the icing on a particularly flavoursome academy league cake.
STAR MAN: Will Keane – close run thing with any number of attacking players meriting consideration, but the Stockport-born forward gets the nod for another terrific display that saw him pick up his fifth goal in four games and set up another two for his teammates.
1. Conor Devlin
2. Alberto Massacci
3. Zeki Fryers
4. Michele Fornasier
5. Tom Thorpe
6. Ryan Tunnicliffe
7. Will Keane
8. Paul Pogba
9. John Cofie (14. Ravel Morrison 46)
10. Davide Petrucci (c) (15. Larnell Cole 69)
11. Nicky Ajose (12. Sean McGinty 83)
Subs not used
13. Sam Johnstone
Ref: A Young