Friendlies Round up
Altrincham 1-2 United XI
United technically opened their pre-season with a ‘strictly behind close doors’ friendly against Blackpool’s first-team. However the match was so behind doors the only thing revealed was the 3-0 scoreline in favour of the tangerines by Blackpool’s Twitter account, even then they didn’t mention the opposition.
However United turned up at Moss Lane with a strong team, some players such as Wilson and Blackett may have felt somewhat rejected from the first-team, however instead of promoting the latest oil sponsorship in China they were playing football in South Manchester. The friendly was arranged to show off Alty’s brand new pitch following a Premier League grant, and the snooker table surface really played into Sean Goss’ hands, or feet as he played for the first time since December following injury.
Altrincham took the lead following an uncharacteristic mistake from Dean Henderson, who dropped the ball onto the feet of the Robins’ striker. However Tosin Kehinde, playing in a newfound number 10 role equalised only minutes later with a clever finish from El Fitouri’s cross. Callum Gribbin came off the bench to grab the winner in the second half with a brilliant curling effort to seal a 2-1 victory and more importantly a good run-out.
Salford City 1-5 United XI
With the CO92™ in attendance at their recent acquisition Salford City, United’s fitness levels prevailed as a tight first-half ended in a second-half rout. James Wilson opened the scoring early on following a threaded pass from Sean Goss, Wilson took it on his right and finished clinically with his left. However Salford hit back from the penalty spot after Henderson upended the Ammies’ midfielder, Poole.
Tackles were flying in from every angle and Salford were relentless when pressing the ball, however the gap in quality really told once Joshua Harrop came on. First came a ruthless finish from the edge of the box curling it into the top corner. Then came something a bit special, cooly cutting back to leave a Salford defender sliding into the next week. He then scooped the ball high over the keeper, as it dropped neatly underneath the crossbar and in, a piece of genius from the maverick midfielder.
Joshua Harrop's exquisite goal from last night pic.twitter.com/xPHOzpLaOm
— United Youth (@United_U21) July 27, 2016
Tosin Kehinde added a fourth and his second in as many games. Salford’s stamina was depleted, as shown late on when Dean Henderson claimed an assist from a goal-kick which bounced all the way through to Demi Mitchell who finished well off the post. A good end to an entertaining match on a summer’s night at Moor Lane.
Port Vale 4-2 United XI
United then travelled to Vale Park where, sporting the brand new home kit they faced tough opposition from League 1. Despite Sadiq El Fitouri cancelling out Vale’s early lead with a neat finish, the gap started to show. United went into the break 3-1 down as they were thoroughly outplayed at times. Port Vale added another after half time but so did United, with Demi Mitchell from the spot to make the final score a more respectable 4-2.
With a 3-0 loss to Blackpool earlier in the month, it will be interesting to see how the ten Premier League reserves sides will fair against League 1 and League 2 opposition in the EFL trophy this season, perhaps this is why United’s reserve side declined their invite to take part in the competition.
United U23 1-1 Oldham U21 (3-4 pens)
Although not a friendly, the match had an affable aura surrounding it as United went out of the Lancashire Senior Cup at the semi-final stage. Oldham were much the stronger side in the first-half, but it was United who took the lead in fine style. Regan Poole found Matthew Olosunde who acrobatically volleyed in leaving the keeper no chance. It was the American defenders’ first goal for United since he joined earlier this year.
Matthew Olosunde's goal against Oldham from tonight pic.twitter.com/5Lpzyb25wO
— United Youth (@United_U21) August 2, 2016
Despite United playing much better in the second half it was then Oldham’s chance to score against the run of play as Jake Cassidy peeled off to the back post and looped a header back over Dean Henderson. Despite some pressure from United for a winner the game ended level and was to be decided by penalties.
McTominay missed his first, as did Cassidy for Oldham who comically slipped up and blazed it over the crossbar. Goss, Redmond and Poole then all scored for United, with Oldham producing a reply every time. Demetri Mitchell, a maverick of a player, then stepped up, you sensed he would try something different, and he did, terribly. Chipping a panenka attempt straight over the bar which proved costly as Kallum Mantack then duely scored the winning penalty for Oldham to seal the victory for the Latics.
Thee youth players were released from the club in June; Oliver Rathbone, George Dorrington and Nick Powell, who later signed for Wigan all said their goodbyes. But one of the surprise departures from the summer was Ashley Fletcher, who after turning down a renewed contract at United, decided to take up West Ham’s interest and join the London outfit.
The move was disappointing, seeing as he performed so well out on loan at Barnsley last season, however he must feel there is a more realistic chance of regular football at West Ham. So there is no resentment in that sense, he is a model professional who deserves a chance at the top level. Joe Rothwell joined Oxford United, a talented midfielder he was unfortunate with injury and at 21 he saw his future career elsewhere.
Tyler Reid moved to Swansea City, which was surprising to see after he had performed very well in the under-18s last season. Guillermo Varela joined Eintracht Frankfurt on a season-long loan, but with a month until the transfer window closes I’d expect a few more loan moves and departures are to come.
You may or may not have noticed a reshuffle in the reserves’ league branding, The ‘Under-21 Premier League’ is now reminiscent of a naff film sequel having been renamed ‘Premier League 2’. Although the league system is the same with 12 teams, the age limit has now risen from under-21 to under-23 and the badge is a bit different.
United were offered the opportunity for their reserves to participate in the 2016/17 EFL trophy (formerly known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy). It was a controversial move from the Football League to incorporate Premier League reserve sides into the competition, which unsettled supports of the lower league sides. However as it turns out United declined to participate as did nine other high profile Premier League teams.
United will however, compete in the ‘Premier League International Cup’ for the first time in 2016/17. The competition is only two years old and includes teams from the UK as well as Europe. United have been drawn in group B which also features Middlesbrough, Sparta Prague and last years winners Villarreal. It will be interesting to see how how United fair in what looks a tough competition.
So to clear things up United are now technically known as under-23’s and will be competing in 4 competitions this season; Premier League 2, the Premier League International Cup, the Manchester Senior Cup and the Lancashire Senior Cup. Enjoy the new season.
United u23 v Leicester u23 / Mon 15th August / Leigh Sports Village / 19:00