Manchester United youngsters Amad Diallo and Joe Hugill enhanced their growing reputations as the Under-23s defeated rivals Liverpool 6-3 in a thrilling game at the Kirkby Academy.
Diallo was making his first appearance for the club after completing his long-awaited transfer from Atalanta at the start of January.
It took just 14 minutes for the 18-year-old to truly announce his arrival, robbing Liverpool defender Billy Koumetio and netting a composed finish to open the scoring.
Summer signing Joe Hugill doubled United’s lead minutes later with a smart finish. Liverpool forward Tyler Morton pulled one back before Luis Longstaff levelled the score before half-time following some sloppy defending.
United started brightly after the interval and were back in front soon after the break through Hugill before the forward completed his hat-trick from the spot after Hannibal Mejbri was fouled in the area.
The blitz continued as 17-year-old Hugill grabbed his fourth with a low drive that gave the Liverpool goalkeeper no chance. All eyes were on Diallo but the summer signing was stealing the show.
Diallo then netted his second from the penalty spot. He took the ball away from Arnau Puigmal before chipping his penalty down the middle showcasing his supreme confidence.
Joe Hardy pulled one back for the hosts but it was too little, too late for Liverpool as United’s youngsters Diallo and Hugill proved their quality on the right wing and up front respectively – two positions that the first team has had issues in this season.
Diallo was named in the starting XI by Wood, starting on the right of United’s front three.
Liverpool started brightly, using a high press that caused United plenty of issues during the December defeat against Chelsea.
Goalkeeper Matej Kovar struggled during the recent loss against Leicester but looked more composed between the sticks, displaying some good footwork early on and organising the United defence.
Diallo’s goal came against the run of play as the youngster pressed Liverpool defender Koumetio high and robbed the Frenchman of possession. He ran through and placed a composed finish past Marcelo Pitaluga to open the scoring.
Despite his lack of minutes, the 18-year-old continued to look sharp and showcased his talent on the ball with some deft touches to draw a foul on the edge of the penalty area.
Minutes later, United doubled their lead through Hugill who continued his impressive start to life at the club following his summer transfer from Sunderland.
A sloppy foul from Shola Shoretire allowed Liverpool a free-kick which was deflected into the path of Morton who fired a fierce right-footed shot into the top corner leaving Kovar with no chance.
Just before the break, Liverpool were level through Longstaff after some sloppy defending from United. The ball bounced around the box and was bundled in by Liverpool’s no.11.
Eager to avoid a repeat of the performances against Chelsea and Leicester, United came out fighting after the interval and quickly regained the lead through Hugill. Diallo continued to threaten and chose the perfect moment to slip in Alvaro Fernandez whose low cross was expertly dispatched by Hugill.
United continued to pile on the pressure and the impressive Hannibal Mejbri continued to terrorise the Liverpool defence. He was fouled in the box and Hugill slotted home the penalty for his hat-trick.
Hugill grabbed his fourth with a composed finish, his 14th goal in eight starts since joining from Sunderland. He is now the second top goal scorer in the Premier League 2 and could be knocking on the door of the first-team in the next year.
With Hugill in danger of stealing the spotlight, Diallo showcased his confidence after Mejbri was fouled in the box once more. The winger stepped up from 12 yards and hit a Panenka penalty straight down the middle for his brace.
Leighton Clarkson dinked the ball over Kovar’s head late on and Hardy bundled the ball over on the line but it proved to be little more than a consolation.
Diallo is first-team ready and Hugill is not too far behind him. Their performances at Kirkby gave Solskjaer plenty of food for thought.