Manchester United under-23s cruised to their 10th win of the season at Old Trafford on Friday night as they dominated a poor Sunderland side 3-0 with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watching on from the stands.
With the first team facing a lengthy trip to Kazakhstan in the Europa League next week Solskjaer might be looking to take some additional youngsters with him to allow first team regulars to sit out the trip and stay in the warmer climes of Manchester instead of the minus 25 degree conditions facing the squad in Astana. And the performances of some of Neil Wood’s side at Old Trafford will have given Solskjaer food for thought over the coming days.
First team fringe player James Garner, Brandon Williams, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood were all missing as Wood’s side lined up against the team bottom of Premier League 2 division 2 on Friday night with veteran goalkeeper Lee Grant boosting the average age of a very young starting XI.
As has been the case so many times already this season it was United who dominated the early exchanges. Dylan Levitt was key for United pulling the strings in midfield.
The Wales international strolled through Sunderland’s midfield with ease and it was an exceptional ball from the 19-year-old over the top for United’s opener with just 16 minutes on the clock.
Largie Ramazani controlled it well and smashed his effort past Anthony Patterson with the help of a slight deflection.
As the clock ticked on United continued to dominate and Solskjaer along with his assistants Mike Phelan, Kieran McKenna and Rich Hartis will have been impressed with what he had seen from the youngsters who have dominated in the league this season.
Ethan Galbraith combined well with Levitt and Arnau Puigmal to dominate Sunderland’s midfield and Wood’s side struggled to create more clear cut opportunities because the visitors to Old Trafford sat with 10 men behind the ball for the majority of the first half.
United did get their second just before the break with some excellent work down the right from Ethan Laird who pulled it back to Galbraith waiting on the edge of the area to smash home and give Wood’s side a two goal cushion at the break.
Laird, who has been name checked by Solskjaer before, showed the Norwegian why he should be in his thoughts as he was a persistent threat down the right.
The visitors tried to come out of their half after the restart but the gulf in class between United and the team sitting bottom with one point to their name this season was clear.
The introduction of Mark Helm, Dion McGhee and Max Taylor didn’t disrupt United’s rhythm and D’Mani Mellor was unlucky not to get on the score sheet as United continued to press forward.
And as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes Ramazani showed his skill again and sealed the three points with a brilliant individual effort which saw him run from the halfway line and bury his right footed shot past Patterson.
Even without the senior members of their team United strolled to their 10th league victory of the season and kept up the pressure on league leaders West Ham, who also won on Friday night. Another job well done for the United youngsters and plenty of food for thought for Solskjaer ahead of selecting his travelling squad for next Thursday’s game.