Liverpool 1-1 United
The under-21s have been thriving in the first-team over the past few months, as a result the under-21 side’s performances have transcended from idle 7-0 victories to hard earned draws and victories built on a strong defence. This was another one and once again highlighted Warren Joyce’s capabilities managing the under-21s. He revealed to MUTV that sometimes he does not even know his team until the afternoon of the match, but his tactics and proficiency he gets the best out of the players and produces results.
Antonio Valencia returned from injury playing his first game since the derby back in October, he played 45 minutes and looked solid, showing that he could yet make his mark on the first-team this season. Joyce did however have his two most important attacking threats in Pereira and Januzaj playing and they caused Liverpool trouble early on in the first half. Januzaj took a free kick, after hitting the wall the ball dropped nicely for the Belgian only for his volley to smack the foot of the post.
Liverpool crept back into the game however with a constant threat on the right in Shayi Ojo. In the second-half it showed as they took the lead after a rare mistake from Joel Pereira, want-away striker Jerome Sinclair was played through but Pereira was too slow off his line as Sinclair finished into an empty net. Unlike the first-team the day previous, United rallied and hit back. El Fitouri found himself in space on the right and hit a low shot-cross which James Weir tapped in following a defensive mix up from Liverpool.
Weir was wearing number 9 on the night playing in a new role up front, and he produced a finish worthy of the number on his back. Warren Joyce will be happy with a point as shown by United consolidation and time wasting towards the end of the match. On Saturday Sunderland under-21s only managed a draw against City as United sit a point behind them in 2nd with two games in hand.
Guillermo Varela’s form
With what feels like a new full-back every game, it is brilliant to see the recent form of Guillermo Varela of late. Ever since he joined the club as Moyes’ first ever signing, although Ferguson is claimed to have scouted him before he left the club. The Uruguayan has impressed at right-back over the past few games. His energy and fearlessness is what the team needs, he has incredible amount of stamina allowing him to get up and down the wing with ease. After going out on loan to Real Madrid Castilla last season, it looked as though Guillermo was a castaway from Van Gaal’s plans. But he has surprised a lot of people with his performances doing what anyone breaking into the side needs to do and make it hard to drop them.
The Montevideo-born defender is no youngster, turning 23 this month. But his emergence into the first-team this season has been hugely beneficial to the side despite the poor results. What was so impressive on Sunday was how he was picked on merit ahead to play ahead of Darmian, and it’s hard to argue why not. His form has also earned the praise of his team-mates with Marcos Rojo commending him “he has been performing like he’s been playing there for the last 10 years.” He has also earned his first ever Uruguay call up this month, if he keeps performing like he is, he can be a great asset to the side for years to come injecting a pace and attacking impotence down the right hand side.
Weir started his career at Preston North End before signing for Man United in 2011, a complete reverse of many other youth careers at the club. He has played in a number of positions, all to good effect. Left-back, wing-back, left-wing and on Friday, centre-forward. His bleach blonde hair is unmissable as he has lead the under-21 side expertly this season as he has been involved in so many match-winning moments.
After Tom Thorpe’s departure in the Summer, Weir’s endeavour and consistency in the side has seen him rewarded with the captaincy. Aged 20 he plays with a far more maturity than most established Premier league footballers. Calm on the ball, doing the basics well, passing and positioning with a high defensive work rate. He is a managers dream because of his ability to play well in whatever position he is deployed in.
He may not be the most technically gifted player in the side, but he can offer a lot going forward, his style is similar to that of Thomas Muller’s. He has come up with 4 goals this season, important ones too. Also managing 6 assists, more than anyone else in the side which shows how well-rounded his game is and how much of an asset to the side he is.
He made his first-team debut coming on against Arsenal but only played for a few minutes towards the end. Although his form and ability has not been ignored as he has been included in the travelling squad numerous times. For now he looks a certain to win the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year award. His first-team aspirations may be hindered by his lack of natural ability but he more than makes up for it in his work-rate, versatility and ability to affect the game, wherever he is on the pitch.
James Wilson got his first goal for Brighton after a dry spell, he finished off a counter-attack very well as Brighton beat Reading 1-0. Ashley Fletcher played 87 minutes against Southend on Saturday, The Keighley born striker did win a penalty after he was fouled by the Southend keeper, but his team-mate failed to score it as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat. Powell was not in either squad as Hull drew 1-1 with MK Dons and Nottingham Forrest midweek as he has picked up a minor injury. Blackett unsurprisingly didn’t play as Celtic won 2-1 and likewise O’Hara was on the bench as Morecambe lost 2-1 to AFC Wimbledon.
Next Match: Chelsea (H)
United’s game against Chelsea away was due to be played at Aldershot FC on Sunday, however as this clashes with the Derby, it has been postponed. So the next match will be against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Monday 4th April, KO 19:45.