With many of the under-18 stars that we see in the U18 Premier League every weekend expectedly called up to their respective national sides, there was only one game this weekend as Manchester United were rampant against an impressive Middlesbrough side.
(Table via YouthHawk.co.uk)
Manchester United 5-1 Middlesbrough
United finally appointed a replacement for Paul McGuinness as under-18s manager with Tottenham Hotspur’s Kieran McKenna. The 30-year-old is the latest of a succession of appointments as new academy manager Nicky Butt looks to rapidly improve the academy, particularly its recruitment.
McKenna started in excellent fashion as his side ended 5-1 victors for the second successive week, having easily beaten Everton at Finch Farm last week with a hattrick from Angel Gomes. Middlesbrough, meanwhile, comfortably beat Sunderland 3-0 in last weekend’s action.
After dominating possession in the early periods, United took the lead through Indy Boonen. The Belgian forward latched onto a superb pass from Angel Gomes, full of imagination and audacity. The recently turned 16-year-old curved a crossfield ball with the outside of his boot, Boonen took it in his stride and finished neatly past Zak Hemmings in the ‘Boro goal.
Middlesbrough, previously unbeaten in 15 consecutive league games, did not allow the floodgates to open just yet. Mitchell Curry proved a nuisance to United’s central defence, although new signing Lee O’Connor was superbly composed for the Reds, dealing well with Curry.
Immediately after half-time, 45 seconds to be precise, ‘Boro equalised with a powerful strike from Brandon Holdsworth. United goalkeeper Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui, weak aerially throughout the game, flapped at a free-kick delivery and punched it weakly out of the penalty area. Holdsworth pounced immediately, striking it with little curve but great power just before it settled on the pitch.
United responded in a way McKenna will be extremely pleased with. Trialist Idris Kanu, previously of West Ham United, scored to make a good impression. Angel Gomes grabbed a second assist of the game, receiving a nice reverse cutback from DJ Buffonge before precisely passing it across the face of goal to give Kanu a tap-in.Kanu had a second, a tap-in once more, just six minutes later as Indy Boonen provided the assist this time.
The best of the five goals for the Reds came from the ever-impressive Angel Gomes in combination with DJ Buffonge. The latter took the ball on the halfway line, left a defender standing motionless after a nutmeg before laying it off to Gomes and running on to receive the pass back. As he took the ball back, now in the penalty area, he crossed it in for Gomes to finish.
Jake Kenyon made it five late on, showing exceptional pace before cutting it back from the left flank for DJ Buffonge to finish. It was impressive from United, clearly buoyed by last week’s thumping of Everton. No team had beaten Middlesbrough in the league for 15 games and United – without a whole selection of players like Tahith Chong, Nishan Burkart, Callum Gribbin, and Tyrell Warren due to injury or international duty – did so in emphatic fashion. Angel Gomes is now the top goalscorer in the U18 Premier League with four goals in as many games, as well as three assists.