Last Match: United 1-1 Liverpool (Winks, Harrop [p])
Harrop’s penalty and Johnstone’s saves earn a point against an experienced Liverpool side after a scrappy North West derby.
Considering the game was moved due to the first-teams’ clash the night before this derby was just as tactically strained but with some added bite. Plenty of fouls and long balls meant the game never really had any flow, this wasn’t helped by the poor weather either.
The squad went into the match off the back of a three week break, however the line up remained similar to the way Joyce’s side has set up all season, this time it was McTominay’s turn up front.
Liverpool’s team was littered with first-team rejects. The line up included £8million striker Danny Ings and veteran French defender Mamadou Sakho who’s agility throughout the night proved that the fat-loss substances he failed a drugs test for clearly weren’t very effective.
It was Ings who indirectly lead to Liverpool’s opener, the striker comically missed a header from point blank range as it smacked the post. The ball just seemed to fall to a Liverpool player every time United cleared after numerous blocks followed.
In the end a low drive came in, which was creatively flicked in by the Liverpool captain and tricky winger Harry Wilson as Sam Johnstone was left rooted to the spot. A deserved lead, but this only helped United to wake up a bit.
Still fired up, it didn’t take long for United’s efforts to pay dividends as Scott McTominay won a penalty early in the second half following a strong run. The makeshift striker had thrown his weight around all night and gave Sakho a headache.
Joshua Harrop stepped up to slot the penalty home and deservedly draw United level with his third goal of the season. However the goal lead to United standing off Liverpool as the luminous yellow highlighter shirts started flooding forward.
Sam Johnstone, who recently signed a new 2-year contract extension stood in their way. He’d obviously been watching his Spanish colleague Monday night as he made two outstanding saves from Danny Ings late on.
Joe Riley also headed off the line in the dying seconds which saw the points shared. Overall a better point for United after reading the team-sheets pre-game. This is one of the weakest teams Warren Joyce has had to work with in a long time, but you can’t fault their endeavours to see out the result tonight.
Man of the Match: Keeping United in the match late on Sam Johnstone performed excellently in the net. After expressing his desire to move out on loan last week he is wasted a bit at this level however he made four excellent saves to deny Liverpool a winner.
Line up: Johnstone 8, Williams 6, Tuanzebe 7, Poole 6, Riley 6, Redmond 6, Olosunde 7, Willock 6, McTominay 7, Harrop 6, El Fitouri 7
Subs: Henderson, Scott 5 (Olosunde), Kehinde, Dunne, Mitchell, Tanner
Whilst the under-23s have struggled up front this season, the under-18s have been flying. Sitting top of the table with 26 goals in 10 games, they are a completely different side to the one that lost 10 games in a row last season.
They have now scored 5 times on 4 occasions this season and the goals are well spread across a lethal front five who just seem dovetail together when going forward with Gomes (5) Boonen (5) Buffonge (4) Burkart (3) and Chong (2) all sharing the spoils.
The flair and attacking talent shown within the under-18 squad is just what is missing in the under-23s. It won’t be too long until some of them step up another level, some have appeared briefly already this season but for now it’s best to keep the squad playing together and see what they can achieve this season, but at this stage it already looks very promising.
The reserves team veteran signed a new 2-year contract extension this week. Joining the club at the age of 10, he is now 23, but still nowhere near a first-team appearance. Clearly a very talented keeper as proved in the match against Liverpool last night, although his ability is going to waste in the reserves.
After signing his contract he very publicly commented on Instagram, agreeing with one fans’ opinion that he should go out on loan to gain more game time. “That’s exactly what I want to do”. Replied the Preston-born keeper. I’m all for this but since 2011 Johnstone has had 8 different loan spells with 6 different clubs, what good will another one really do?
I can see why he wants to stay at United, nice wage, top facilities and learning from the best keeper in the world can only be beneficial. But De Gea is the one in his way and unless someone plugs the fax machine back in, that’s how it will stay for quite some time now.
In fact Johnstone may even be overtaken by his younger brother Max who is in the current under-18 squad. The extension is baffling, however he may yet prove to be an excellent back up to De Gea in place of Romero, after all he has been sharing the warm-ups before first-team games this season. However I just don’t see a clear future planned out for him at the club.
Arsenal [H] / Mon 24th October / 19:00 / Leigh Sports Village