U18s: United 1 Spurs 3: Reds flop in final friendly
Posted by nickogs20 on August 14, 2010
August 14th 2010, 10.30am
Trafford Training Centre, Carrington
|Manchester United U18s||1-3||Tottenham Hotspur U18s|
|Cofie 39||–||Kane 9|
|–||–||Oyenuga 31, 60|
United’s U18s ended their pre-season preparations in disappointing fashion after losing 3-1 to an impressive Spurs side.
The visitors’ talented strike pairing did the damage, Harry Kane and Kudus Oyenuga each grabbing a goal early on as Alex Inglethorpe’s side dominated. John Cofie’s fine finish just before the break seemed set to spark a comeback, but Oyenuga added a third from the penalty spot to seal a comprehensive win for the North Londoners.
Having only seen the academy in action so far in the Under-17 Northern Ireland Milk Cup, this was the first chance to see the full new-look Under-18 side in action, with a number of players who have spent pre-season with the reserves coming back into the fold. Sam Johnstone, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison were all named in Paul McGuinness’ starting XI, rejoining six of their fellow second-years in a side that featured just one new scholar, Belgian Charni Ekangamene in an unfamiliar left-back role.
The Reds started brightly, Morrison and Cofie looking threatening in attack, but their early good work was undone as some sloppy defending allowed Spurs to draw first blood. Highly-rated forward Harry Kane was allowed far too much space on the edge of the area and his shot was too powerful for Johnstone to keep out.
United’s rearguard had switched off completely and that was to become something of a theme over the next twenty minutes, only a lack of composure from the Tottenham forwards preventing them from taking a more commanding lead. Michael Keane in particular was having a tough time at right-back and it was his error of judgement that contributed towards the visitors doubling their advantage just after the half-hour. The Irish U17 defender was caught out by a long ball over his head and Kane capitalised, taking the pass in his stride and drilling across a dangerous low ball. Johnstone hesitated briefly and that proved fatal, Kudus Oyenuga stealing in front of him to tap in.
That setback seemed to belatedly spark the Reds into life. Tunnicliffe and Etzaz Hussain finally started to get a foothold in the midfield battle, in turn allowing Morrison and Cofie to get into the game, and it was the latter – so prolific at the Milk Cup – who got United back into the game. There seemed little immediate threat when he picked the ball up on the left, but a clever one-two with Lingard gave him a sight of goal cutting in from the flank and the big number nine swept a superb finish into the far corner.
Tunnicliffe went close to equalising shortly afterwards, dragging his left-footed shot just wide after bursting into the box from the right, and while Johnstone had to produce one stunning full-stretch save to keep out a long-range effort from Kane that looked destined for the top corner, United definitely ended the half stronger and will have been disappointed to hear the referee signal the end of the first 45.
Sure enough, the momentum McGuinness’ side had built up before the break had well and truly dissipated when proceedings got back underway and the visitors regained the upper hand, exerting near total control in midfield where United lacked width and were unable to match their opposite numbers physically. Frustration started to mount amongst those in the red shirts and Ryan Tunnicliffe went into the book for a wild lunge, Jesse Lingard later following him for a similarly mistimed challenge.
It was from another rash tackle by Tunnicliffe that Spurs effectively sealed the win on the hour mark, the Reds midfielder reacting too late to a quick free-kick played into the box and scything down Kane, leaving the referee with little option but to point to the spot. Oyenuga stepped up and comfortably struck it down the middle as Johnstone dived left, leaving United faced with a mountain that they never really looked capable of climbing.
There was no lack of effort, with Morrison in particular working hard to track back, trying to get on the ball and to make things happen, but with both sides making a number of substitutions, the game became disjointed and pedestrian, very much typical pre-season fayre. Spurs saw the game out comfortably, and United’s youngsters left the field with heads bowed – it may only have been a friendly, but everyone involved will know a big improvement is needed as they head south next weekend to begin the league campaign away at Chelsea.
John Cofie only found the net six times in his 25 appearances (20 starts) last season, but his pre-season form suggests he’s ready to make a significant improvement to that tally this time around. Seven goals (and a share of the Golden Boot) at the Milk Cup and another superb strike here suggest a more confident, composed Cofie and the big striker certainly seems to be enjoying his football.
Woe out wide
Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard (and substitute Tom Lawrence) aren’t natural wide players and it showed, with their tendency to drift inside causing congestion and leaving United short of options out wide. The contrast to having Nicky Ajose and Robbie Brady on the flanks last season was stark. This could be a persistent problem all season as there are no natural wide players for Paul McGuinness to call upon in the squad, although schoolboy Jack Barmby – capable of playing on either wing – offers an interesting option.
Not too much went right for the prodigiously talented Reds midfielder, but there were promising signs that he’s developing as a player and person. Previously a little short-tempered, the 17 year-old was an unlikely peacekeeper as things got a little moody after Lingard’s booking. Morrison also showed good discipline in his play, regularly dropping deep to help out the over-run midfield and even showing the awareness to slot in at centre-back as Tom Thorpe made a rare foray forward.
1. Sam Johnstone
2. Michael Keane (12. Michele Fornasier 58)
3. Charni Ekangamene (16. Luke Giverin 68)
4. Tom Thorpe (c)
5. Sean McGinty (14. Luke Hendrie 79)
6. Etzaz Hussain (15. Tom Lawrence 58)
7. Larnell Cole
8. Ryan Tunnicliffe
9. John Cofie
10. Ravel Morrison
11. Jesse Lingard
Subs not used
13. Joe Coll
Booked: Tunnicliffe, Lingard