United u21s 1-0 City EDS: match report


This was an immensely frustrating result. It felt worse for obvious reasons – it was a derby so it came with an added emotional resonance, there was the fact that the world was watching and, importantly, on a night when it most mattered on a big stage, the EDS put in arguably their most timid performance of the season. It was a pretty hard pill to swallow. There was no arguing with the result. It was deserved. United were the better team. Better organised, faster, more of a threat going forward and in general pretty comfortable throughout. City struggled to break down the solid block of red shirts in front of them and barely mustered a shot in anger throughout the 90 minutes, despite lining up with a relatively strong eleven. There was a small spell of concerted pressure towards the end of the game as United sat back, desperate to maintain their one goal lead, but other than that it was an incredibly stale outing, typified by large spells of relatively pointless possession as City passed amongst themselves without really going anywhere.

Annoyingly, their goal was far too easy. While we tend to be good going forward at this level, usually anyway, we’re always liable to a soft goal or two unfortunately, and this was no different. After some weak play from Barker on the left wing, a long ball forward was completely misjudged by Bryan, who was to be fair only making his second appearance back after a long spell out with an injury. The ball ran between both centre-backs and it was cut back to the edge of the area by Will Keane and Joe Rothwell slotted home the goal that proved to be the winner with only fifteen minutes on the clock. United had a few more half chances, capitalising on some naivety that stemmed from our insistence on playing it out from the back, but it remained 1-0 at the break. The second half was a relative non-event. United sat back, comfortable and in control, City toiled with no real success. It was far too pedestrian and the final whistle came as a relief in the end.

For all the criticisms of Vieira from some quarters, and a lot perhaps wasn’t fair given the fact that the club were (rightly) sticking to a longer term plan as they tested players out of their comfort zones, tonight’s performance surely wouldn’t have happened. There was little inspiration from the touchlines and it felt frustrating to watch the same ideas and techniques, ones that clearly weren’t working, throughout the entirety of the game. It needed something bold, a switch up of sorts, yet nothing really happened. Vieira often changed things, going to 3-5-2, or insisting that the full-backs stepped in field to create an overload in the middle, and though often these changes might’ve seemed confusing from the sidelines, they gave the opposition something to think about and they were at least attempts at being reactive. This just didn’t happen. It felt predictable, and…well…dull. The ball was moved far too slow, we never really isolated their full-backs, we didn’t create any real overlaps and everything was played at the same pace in front of United’s defence. Weirdly, it felt like watching Van Gaal’s United.

Coming off the back of the back of a sensational performance against Liverpool, and they were truly excellent on Sunday, it felt all the more frustrating. They were full of life at the weekend, a real mesmeric handful – there was excellent movement, composure and intelligence on the ball, and a real desire to express themselves. This didn’t happen, for whatever reason, and too many disappeared into their shells. Barker was the biggest disappointment. He had little service to be fair, but against Liverpool he was a bundle of energy, skilful and impossibly hard to control, yet here he was quiet and reserved. It was confusing to watch and hard to understand. Likewise, Aleix Garcia. The Spanish number six is a fantastic little player. Technically wonderful, usually so calm in possession, and credit where its due there was no lack of fight from him, but last night his game faltered with far too many passes going astray. Glendon worked relentlessly, and he tried to make things happen, yet he couldn’t really offer any threat alongside Manu Garcia who had a quiet game after returning from injury. Bytyqi, despite his usual bustling energy, found little joy out on the right. Adarabioyo had a good game, in a rare positive to take from the night. One slight slip aside, he was solid, making some excellent interceptions in the second half as he covered the mistakes of a few around him. Bryan wasn’t bad too, though some slight rustiness was understandable given his recent return to fitness.

I felt sorry for Celina. He’s not a centre-forward, far from it. He’s worked relatively well as a false nine of sorts, but against a solid and strong United backline his shortcomings as a striker were quickly exposed. The introduction of Faupala helped a little when he took his place in the second half. Angelino offered his usual bluster, yet was relatively quiet by his standards, and Smith-Brown was muted too over on the right. He looked a lot more comfortable when moved to midfield where he was so effective against Liverpool at the weekend. Humphreys added some spark at right-back as a second half sub, adding a little pace and drive down the right, something that was missing from the off. Gunn had little to do, truth be told, asides from their goal in what was a night to forget. Their touches abandoned them, with the movement off the ball was non-existent. Given the fact that the first team is crying out for some fresh impetus with the current injury problems, this was a chance wasted for some to really make a claim. It would be far too easy to write some of these players off, and I’m sure plenty of those who don’t watch the EDS regularly probably will, but they’re all so much better than this, and deep down the players will probably know it. Hopefully this will be a lesson learned. Thankfully they get a chance at redemption a week on Saturday as United visit the CFA.

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