Manchester United’s U21s went down to their first defeat at their new home on Monday night after an enthralling six goal encounter against local rivals Liverpool.
United started brightly and took the lead in the 7th minute after superb play down the left by Marnick Vermijl and Adnan Januzaj left Jesse Lingard free in the middle of the box and his shot was parried straight into the path of Larnell Cole who tapped home.
Liverpool replied soon after when debutant right back Guillermo Varela was caught out of position and Jordan Ibe smartly weaved past three United defenders to place the ball past Ben Amos.
The Merseyside outfit then took the lead in the 18th minute when a hazardous first touch by returning centre back Michael Keane left Adam Morgan to pick up the pieces to score Liverpool’s second.
By this time, United were playing uncharacteristically hesitant football and they were once again punished just two minutes after Liverpool had scored their second when a wonderful swirling 30 yard free kick from Fabio Borini went straight through the hands of Amos to double the lead.
Following Liverpool’s third, both teams looked to have tired after a ferocious start but after a smart move to switch Januzaj to the right, United gained momentum.
Their hard work was then rewarded when the ever so lively Lingard once again made himself available in the box and after a few quick step-overs, Januzaj laid the ball off to him to strike a superb effort into the bottom left corner.
The second half was far more low key than the first half as both teams struggled to get a complete hold of the game.
Januzaj continued to cause problems for Liverpool down the right but apart from that, neither team looked like scoring.
Then ten minutes before the end, Liverpool all but sealed the three points when poor defending once again from Keane left Borini time to round Amos and to score from a tight angle.
United did try to play their way back into it in the final minutes but unfortunately their efforts went unrewarded.
Superb performances from Januzaj and Lingard were unfortunately overshadowed by the scoreline but new signing Varela did show touches of class. It is easy to see why he is being compared to an inexperienced Rafael.
His decision making may not the be the best and his willingness to go forward may overpower his willingness to defend but the signs are there that he could be the man to challenge Rafael for his first team spot.
The U21s now face West Brom at The Hawthorns on Friday afternoon as they look too bounce back from their opening day defeat to their local rivals.