Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Man Utd

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Man United showed they are getting some transfer decisions right vs Blackburn

4 min read

It looks like Manchester United fans will be faced with disappointment when the summer transfer window closes next week.

Ed Woodward warned it wouldn’t be ‘business as usual’ for United in such a challenging transfer climate, but at first-team level the feeling around this window has been painfully familiar, with United still scrambling for additions going into the final three days.

However, at youth team level it has been a very different story this summer and few teams can boast to have recruited as well at United. Perhaps they’re playing the long game.

Those early signs of promise were showcased again with the Under-23s’ deserved draw away at Blackburn in Premier League 2 Division 1 on Friday afternoon as an extremely youthful side rallied late on to secure their first point of the new season.

Even at U23s level this United squad is juvenile, with centre-back Luca Ercaloni the oldest member of the starting line-up against Blackburn at 20. Neil Wood made it clear his side would be up against it in the reserve league this season and after losses to Leicester and Liverpool in the opening two matches there remains a worry United’s return to the top-flight of reserve football might be short-lived.

The context is crucial. United’s young squad has been stripped back by five loan departures, with young centre-back Max Taylor poised to make it six when he joins Kidderminster Harriers. Away from that and there are also injuries to the squad, with midfielder Ethan Galbraith the most notable absentee, while a striker shortage has allowed summer recruit Joe Hugill to make his mark far earlier than expected.

United fought off stiff competition from Tottenham, Arsenal, Wolves and Leeds to sign the teenager, and after his latest showing it looks like his future could be even larger than his 6ft’2” frame.

His first goal at Blackburn was also his first at U23s level, but he took it like a seasoned professional as he controlled Anthony Elanga’s clever knock on, went past a defender and coolly slotted beyond Jordan Eastham in the opposing net with just a minute on the clock.

United will strengthen up front in the next few weeks when Charlie McNeil signs from Manchester City, but he might find it difficult to get a game given the standard being set by 16-year-old striker Hugill.

Fellow summer signing Isak Hansen-Aarøen impressed on his debut at reserve level, but United’s first-half momentum was soon halted when Blackburn were awarded a penalty half an hour in for a harsh handball against Di’Shon Bernard in the box. “An absolute shambles” back-up keeper Paul Woolston described it while watching from the stands. He wasn’t wrong.

Connor McBride fired low to beat Ondrej Mastny, United’s penalty hero against Rochdale in the EFL Trophy earlier in the week, before the Czech produced a superb save to keep the scores level going in at the break.



Hugill is just 16

Will Fish, 17, commanded as captain at the back alongside the more experienced Bernard, with the 20-year-old centre-back still expected to leave United on loan before the domestic transfer window closes on October 16. An inexperienced side is about to get even weaker.

Bernard impressed with his grace throughout but he provided a reminder of his rawness when he failed to clear his lines as Blackburn took the lead after the break. Penalty scorer McBride was fortunate his sliced effort stayed in play before dropping for Brad Lyons to head in at the back post – the impressive Mastny could only palm the ball into the net.

Many sides would have crumbled against a Blackburn side who won their first two league games of the season, but United weathered the storm and their enterprising play soon brought with it a deserved reward.

The electric Anthony Elanaga switched over to the right wing and broke beyond the Blackburn defence, his low cross was too much for Eastham and Hugill poked in unmarked at the back post like any striker worth their salt would.

Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the closing stages but in the end United settled for a point and they are gradually finding their feet after an early culture shock in their new surroundings.

Hugill might be six years younger than some of the players at this level, but he proved age is just a number with two excellent goals against Blackburn. It looks like United have pulled off a coup in the summer window, at youth level at least, after all.

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