U21s: Manchester United 0-1 Stoke City – Fletcher, Zaha and Fabio can’t help to avoid defeat

by Tracey Germaine

Darren Fletcher continued his comeback with a full 90 minutes under his belt after starting alongside first team squad players Fabio and Wilfried Zaha but they couldn’t help Manchester United as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss against ten man stoke.

The first team coaching staff were watching on from the sidelines with David Moyes briefly leaving to conduct his weekly press conference.

The game got off to a bad start when Will Keane left the pitch bleeding profusely from his head. He had jumped for the ball and there was a clash of heads. He also may have been clipped by the Stoke player’s elbow due to the player’s momentum. He looked as though he would need stitches and Tom Lawrence was brought on to replace him after just four minutes.

One of United’s best chances in the match came after just 12 minutes. Fabio pressed the Stoke defence and caused the ball to fall to Lawrence. Lawrence ran at the defenders and managed to get the ball to Darren Fletcher. His right footed shot unfortunately was straight at the Stoke goalkeeper who saved easily.

Zaha had an even better chance to give United the lead just before the half hour mark. His pace took him through the Stoke defence but his shot skirted just past the far post.

Ryan O’Reilly was lucky to escape with just a booking after a dangerous challenge on Fletcher. The full-back’s foot was high with studs showing as he attempted to connect with the midfielder’s shin. Fortunately Fletcher suffered no ill affects from the tackle. O’Reilly was left walking a tightrope though as he had over an hour left to play up against Zaha, who showed some nice touches and was always looking to run forward, beat his man and get a cross into the box.

Fabio was substituted after 45 minutes and was replaced by Jack Barmby for the second half. This resulted in a shuffle to the set up with Reece James going back into the left back position, Lawrence going to the left wing with Barmby taking a more central role up front.

Lawrence was booked for a full-blooded challenge soon after. He almost got the ball but came from behind to do so and was deservedly booked.

Stoke City took the lead after 57 minutes. A corner was whipped in and Adam Thomas was on hand at the near post to direct it into the back of the net. Amos attempted to come out and punch the ball away but his positioning let him down.

Not long after Stoke were reduced to ten men. Ryan O’Reilly received his second yellow having not listening to the referee’s final warning mere minutes before. His sliding challenge on Lawrence was late.

Stoke continued to defend well. Zaha was switched out to the left wing but didn’t really receive the ball while out there. He was more effective when he was on the right and would have expected to do better up against the makeshift right full back who slotted in to cover O’Reilly’s position.

The Reds were unable to get back into the match although there were a few chances to do so. Tom Thorpe had a couple of headed chances but his first looped over the crossbar and his second was blocked by a Stoke defender’s back.

Zaha threaded a ball through the Potter’s defence to Barmby who was pushed in the box. However, the officials felt that it wasn’t a penalty. Ekangamene took on a shot from outside the area but it was blocked.

Michael Keane went into the referee’s book near the end of the match after a challenge on a Stoke winger. Reece James picked up a knock near the end of the game. At first it looked like he’d stay on until the final whistle but he eventually had to be taken off and was replaced by Ben Pearson.

Manchester United: Amos, Varela, Thorpe, Michael Keane, Fabio (Barmby 45′), Zaha, Ekangamene, Darren Fletcher, Reece James (Pearson 92′), Cole, Will Keane (Lawrence 4′).

Unused Substitutes: Gollini, Love.

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