Manchester United’s Under-23s had a chance to overtake Derby County in the Premier League 2 standings and finish 5th with a win today.
Personalities such as Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga and Shola Shoretire entered the squad, having been in the first team bubble, but maybe the name that stands out on the squad sheet was 16. , Omari Forson.
United scored the first goal from the kick-off. They worked well from captain, Will Fish in the center going up the right wing to Helm who first played it behind the Derby full-back on Forson’s lane. Forson passed it inside to Mejbri who attempted a back heel kick but the defender stepped on it. The rebound fell on Forson, who had continued his run, and he played it for the first time to Elanga on the left of the box, who faced the defender 1 on 1. With a drop of the shoulder, Elanga made a yard of space and smashed into the top corner with his left. It took 28 seconds.
Derby, however, fought back minutes later. From a throw-in on the left, United were passive and Derby alive. Will Fish attempted to control the ball and get it out, but Olamide Ibrahim put one foot in and stole it from the United captain. Free in the box, Ibrahim curled up his strike with his right foot under the crossbar for the equalizer.
The chaos at the start calmed down but Derby continued to play direct and quick stuff unlike United passing him well on the pitch. Derby have won numerous midfield duels and won free kicks, keeping United honest. Derby forward Luke Plange and eighth baseman Cameron Cresswell kept United center-backs busy.
In the 31st minute, Derby took the lead. United’s defense hesitated to clear a ball overhead and Derby picked it up high on the right. Cresswell received it in space in D. Center-half Max Taylor wasn’t tight and Cresswell whipped up a shot to the upper left corner with his left foot.
A few minutes later, United responded. After an intricate crossing triangle on the right between Forson, Mejbri and Helm, the cross in the box was scratched by Charlie McCann. The ball bounced off McCann’s standing foot to the edge of the box. Arrived late, Ethan Galbraith, who had returned to midfield after being suspended, crushed him in a half-volley.
United took the lead a few minutes later. Max Taylor made up for his previous mistake with a good header that looped Mejbri outside the United area. The young Frenchman brilliantly controlled him with his knee and feinted past the Derby midfielder on the way down, before playing him against Forson on the right. Forson carried and went well in Elanga’s run, which was on goal. He pretended to shoot and cut inside before hitting him with his left. The strike was webbed and in the path of Shoretire, who inserted it.
United looked like they could score at will.
Just before half-time they scored 2-4. Picking it up in the center circle, Shoretire carried the ball into the Derby half of the pitch and before it was closed he chipped a smart ball in the way of a good center run from Forson. Forson was sharp on goal and his low left-footed shot went through the legs of the diving goalkeeper.
Derby restarted the second half aggressively, with the rain pouring down. There were a few tough times.
United continued to look dangerous on offense, particularly at the break. They should have had a penalty kick after Elanga beat his man with rhythm to the left and walked through him. Alvaro Fernandez, who had come for the Fish Carded at half-time, moved to connect but he was taken out from behind in the box. The referee, however, waved the game.
The Reds added to their tally in the 71st minute. A small turn worked fine to the left. Elanga played a 1-2 with Forson and broke into the Derby area. He pretended to shoot twice, surrounded by Derby players, then went off to fly. The ball nestled in the net on the right side.
Derby hit the post a minute later after a good counter to United’s left.
With the numbers forward, and perhaps the encouragement of their previous attack, Derby was exposed from the back. Wellens carried the ball forward and found Mark Helm, who had been moved to midfield. Helm simulated to shoot before playing Elanga wide in space. He picked Shoretire moving into the penalty area and, to the left of the 6-yard zone, Shoretire struck low with his left for United’s sixth.
It was United’s 57th goal of the season and one of many scoring festivals that placed them fifth heading into next week’s final game.