United youngsters pegged back in Youth League opener

Manchester United's U19's coach Nicky Butt
Manchester United's U19's coach Nicky Butt
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UEFA Youth League: Manchester United 1 Wolfsburg 1

The European football season at Leigh Sports Village kicked off yesterday afternoon with a fascinating draw between Manchester United and Wolfsburg in the UEFA Youth League.

The competition mirrors the format of the UEFA Champions League, with the clubs’ U19 sides playing each other as a prologue to the senior game later that evening. And in the end United’s U19s will be pleased with a hard-earned point which took them to the top of the group after two games.

Wolfsburg were impressively neat and tidy in midfield in the early phases of the game, but it was United who took the lead midway through the first half after their commanding keeper Dean Henderson clutched a corner kick and immediately sent pacey striker Marcus Rashford away down the left. Wolfsburg defender Azzaoui desperately tried to halt the United skipper before he got his shot away, but only succeeded in upending Rashford for a clear penalty. Rashford picked himself up and calmly slotted the spot-kick home for his third goal in this season’s competition.

Wolfsburg were not to be deterred however, and after the break had at least four clear chances to equalise before they inevitably did on 61 minutes. It was worth the wait - Donkor latching on to a through ball and delightfully lobbing the ball over the advancing Henderson.

With United hanging on after a number of further chances for the German side, captained by the excellent midfielder Amara Conde, U19 manager Nicky Butt would have been pleased to see his young charges dig in for a point. In fact, Rashford probably came closest to scoring the game’s third goal, clipping just over from a tempting Warren cross.

But neither side could find the winner, and in the end both managers would have been happy with an entertaining draw in front of an encouraging midweek afternoon crowd of 510 at Leigh Sports Village.

The UEFA Youth League returns to Leigh on November 3 when United take on CSKA Moscow at 2pm. Entry is free if you sign up at www.leighsportsvillage.co.uk/manutd

United: Henderson; Warren, Tuanzebe, Williams, Borthwick-Jackson; McTominay (Scott 70), Redmond (Whelan 81); Gribbin (Kehinde 71), Fosu-Mensah, Dearnley; Rashford.