McNeill scores goals
Borussia Dortmund might have taken the lead against Manchester United in the Round of 16 UEFA Youth League through London-born Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, but the Reds soon drew level thanks to Manchester’s own Charlie McNeill. The tickets were free for Tuesday’s match at Leigh Sports Village, but the potential of the talent on the pitch was worth paying for.
McNeill has developed a healthy habit of scoring goals – they aren’t always pretty – in United’s academy and here he was again bringing his side level against Dortmund, which rather impressively was his 11th goal in his 24 appearances this season. However, it was telling that the majority of United’s players celebrated with Zidane Iqbal after McNeill’s strike found the back of the net.
Iqbal was brilliantly composed on the edge of the box and had the vision to play through McNeill, who slotted home from close range against Dortmund’s Sias Ostrinski. McNeill only needs half-chances. He scores more often than not.
United caught for pace
United’s defence of Marc Jurado, Will Fish, Thys Bennett and Alvaro Fernandez were caught for pace against Dortmund under the floodlights at Leigh. United conceded the game’s opener from their own corner in the first half. Dortmund broke with purpose and intent and United were helpless to help Vitek who was left one-on-one against Bynoe-Gittens.
Bynoe-Gittens scored again in the second half and United struggled to deal with the threat he posed during the game. While the forward looks like a genuinely exciting prospect, United should have done better with both of the goals. That proved costly.
Bynoe-Gittens scored Dortmund’s winning penalty to rub the salt in the wounds.
Hannibal comes alive
Ralf Rangnick has been impressed with Hannibal since his interim appointment. Hannibal excelled with Tunisia at the Arab Cup and his performances at that tournament earned him a call up to the Africa Cup of Nations. Although Hannibal was recovering from an injury at the start of the season, he had played more times for Tunisia than United this term as the New Year came around.
That’s changed now. While Hannibal has been training with United’s first team in recent weeks, he was mostly anonymous in the first half against Dortmund, however, whatever Wood said at the break, it clearly had its desired effect. Hannibal look transformed.
It was no coincidence United started the second half the better side when Hannibal began to enjoy more influence. There were glimpses of real quality from the 19-year-old and he helped United seize the initiative after the break. He wore the captain’s armband and he gradually began to lead on the pitch. Hannibal’s trademark aggressiveness was also on show and he made his presence felt.
United and penalties
To lose a game on penalties is cruel, but United’s penalties simply weren’t good enough after the game couldn’t be decided in normal time. Jurado seemed like an interesting choice – the Spaniard is a right-back – to take United’s first penalty but his confidence walking up to the spot certainly wasn’t misplaced. Jurado would actually be the only United player to score a penalty on the night.
McNeill naturally stepped up next and his effort hit the post. Hannibal was much improved in the second half, but his penalty was poor and Emeran’s wasn’t any better. It was also the final United penalty of the night to be saved. Ostrzinski, Dortmund’s stopper, had an excellent game and he was there to deny United at the death. He made the difference for Dortmund at Leigh.
Vitek did his teammates a favour, saving a Dortmund penalty, but United ultimately fell short. The pressure that penalties brings in matches can not be replicated in training and Tuesday’s defeat will be an important lesson for United’s youngsters.
Savage is relentless
It’s seemingly always the forwards that receive the plaudits from the media when following United’s academy, but Charlie Savage, who is relentless as the anchor in United’s three-man midfield, deserves his share of praise. The work rate of Savage, the son of Robbie Savage, is outstanding. He works in the shadows in the centre of the pitch to protect United’s backline.
Savage signed his first professional contract in April this year and he’s already become a regular in Wood’s U23s plans. It wasn’t to be for United and Savage after Dortmund won the match on penalties, but he was able to leave the pitch with his head held high.
Savage has already made his full United debut, which his father never managed.