Manchester United came back from conceding an early goal to beat bottom of the table West Ham United 3-2 at Leigh Sports Village.
Adnan Januzaj captained a Man United team containing first-team squad members who are regular faces at United U21s level in Rafael, Paddy McNair and James Wilson. At the same time, the Reds were without their defensive stalwart Tom Thorpe. Nick Powell is yet to return from injury.
West Ham took the lead within the opening 15 minutes. Oxford headed home unchallenged after what appeared to be an error in communication between the goalkeeper Joel Pereira and his defence.
However, just ten minutes later the Reds had turned the game around when Josh Harrop equalised after some lovely build up play. His shot wasn’t powerful but Sam Howes in the West Ham goal allowed it to trickle past him at the near post.
Moments later Rothwell gave United the lead. McNair popped up on the left wing and played Rothwell through with an exquisite through ball. There was still plenty for the midfielder to do but having beat the defender he slotted home past Howes.
That wasn’t to be the last goal action of the half as West Ham found themselves back in the game just before half time when a defensive error led to Jordan Brown levelling the scoreline. Joel Pereira came out from the goal mouth and Donald Love‘s back pass was angled just too wide for the Swiss-born Portuguese goalkeeper to collect. Brown was then able to tap home.
United looked shaky at the start of the second half, presumably the after-effects of the late equaliser. A few tackles were flying in after the break and a West Ham player was booked for a poor foul on Januzaj but Januzaj’s reaction saw his name also in the book.
Harrop doubled his goal tally for the season and claimed his second of the match with an improvised finish following another goalkeeping error from Howes.
Januzaj went through on goal and could have made it four goals but having beaten the defenders he went for personal glory rather and skied the ball over the crossbar instead of passing it into the back of the net. Wilson had a couple of attempts in the second half but had to create them himself as he lacked service for the majority of the match.
That win sees United remain top of the Barclay’s U21s Premier League with a four point cushion over nearest rivals Liverpool, albeit that Liverpool have a match in hand on United.
Manchester United: J. Pereira, Rafael, McNair, Love, Kellett, Januzaj (c), Grimshaw, Goss, Rothwell (Tuanzebe 85′), Harrop, Wilson (Weir 85′).
Unused substitutes: O’Hara, Willock, Fosu-Mensah.
Goals: Harrop x 2, Rothwell.
Man of the Match: Josh Harrop.