With two games to go for the season, two wins were crucial for Manchester United’s under 18s with Manchester City five points behind them in second, and with two games in hand.
There was added tension also due to the traditional rivalry between the two sides.
Man United’s top goalscorer, Charlie McNeill, who swapped Man City’s Elite Development Squad for the Reds last year, started up front.
It looked like Man United might start the game in control, after Zidane Iqbal had a strong, low left foot strike from just outside the box saved in the first minute, but Leeds reacted well. The game became scrappy, for the first ten minutes, with both teams pressing high and tackles flying in.
Man United slowly started to build pressure on Leeds, passing it around the final third.
In the 14th minute, McNeill pulled off a quick turn after dropping into midfield and played a pass with the outside of his boot to Alejandro Garnacho on the left. The Spaniard drove towards goal and shot but the keeper gathered it comfortably.
Leeds pressed Man United high and aggressively. After winning a corner, Man United keeper, Johan Guadagno, spilled the lofted delivery and it was cleared, but the home side gained more confidence.
It led to a goal on the 19th minute. Alfie Hughes found the ball in a pocket of space on the left inside the box and drove it low across the six yard box behind United’s center backs, where center forward Max Dean slid in to finish.
Man United upped their urgency but Leeds continued to threaten down the left.
In the 26th minute, Iqbal drifted into the Leeds area and received the ball. With a turn of skill, he burst away from the defender and dinked it to right back, Charlie Wellens, who the laid it back to Garnacho. Garnacho’s snap-shot was saved, however.
It was an open game. Leeds kept numbers forward and won it back high well. They had it in the net again only to be flagged offside.
As it got closer to half-time, Man United built the pressure. Dillon Hoogewerf, Iqbal and McNeill created chances perhaps deserving of a goal, but couldn’t break through due to last ditch blocks and tackles from Leeds.
The Reds started the second half well, while Leeds’ intensity dropped slightly.
The equaliser came on the 49th minute. After more good wing-play from Hoogewerf on the left, the ball was moved to the other side. Garnacho picked it up, turned and drove inside before shooting with his left. The strike was blocked and fell to McNeill who chipped in a delicate cross from the right, just outside the six yard area. Hoogewerf powered the header into the top corner.
Just two minutes after that, Hoogewerf had another chance, but,after cutting inside his powerful right foot shot went over.
Then Leeds broke well into United’s box and drew a good 1 v 1 save from Guadagno.
Man United took the lead on the 55th minute. After a free kick was well-won on the left hand side by Garnacho, Charlie Savage whipped in a good ball which was met by the towering defender, Will Fish. His header looped towards goal. McNeill ghosted onto the dropping ball and volleyed it under the keeper from close range.
McNeill doubled his tally three minutes later, latching onto a clever chip in behind the Leeds’ defence by Hoogewerf. The striker peeled off the left center back and drove it low into the left bottom corner.
Man United were well on top with more impressive moments from Iqbal, McNeill, Hoogewerf and Garnacho. Iqbal was substituted on the 75th minute having just recently returned from injury.
It looked like the game would play out comfortably for Man United until a Leeds goal came from nowhere on the 82nd minute. Leeds midfielder, Joe Snowdon, stood over a free kick within range and hit it well. The ball went through the wall and past the keeper on his side. Suddenly, the league leaders were under pressure again. 2-3.
Man United substitute Emile Forson missed a sitter on the 85th minute. He volleyed a good cross from left back Alvaro Fernandez over from 6 yards out and Leeds looked hungry, bringing their top-scorer, Lui Bradbury, on off the bench.
But Wellens secured the win, with a breakaway goal in the 90th minute. The Reds’ right back took advantage of the lack of Leeds defensive numbers, carrying the ball beyond halfway and laying it off to Forson. Forson made up for his miss by playing a well-spotted through ball back to Wellens running centrally into the box, through on goal. His shot wasn’t well hit but he managed to direct it beyond the advancing goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
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