A young Manchester United side defeated Newcastle in The Capital One Cup clash last night, with debuts for four U21 players. Three of those U21 players started in an inexperienced back four which featured Michael Keane, Scott Wootton and Marnick Vermijl.
It was also pleasing to see Darren Fletcher make his return to the first team. After a long period out, Fletcher has continued his comeback with a few appearances in the U21’s and he looked in good shape last night. With the captain’s armband, Fletcher played just in front of the defence and he was vocal throughout the game, marshalling his young team-mates and providing some much needed experience.
Just ahead of Fletcher, Cleverley and Anderson played excellently together and their partnership provided United with a strong spine in the middle of the pitch. Rooney also dropped very deep, spreading the play with a number of ranged passes from the centre circle. Such play allowed our full backs to push forward giving United the chance to stretch the Newcastle defence and create some chances.
United didn’t have it all their own way in the first half, Newcastle did create a few opportunities, Dan Gosling in particular missing a good opportunity to test De Gea but his shot was high over the bar. United played some neat football, passing the ball comfortably between the midfield trio, trying to carve out an opportunity to break Newcastle down.
Such an opportunity came just after Cleverley missed the target in a one on one with the keeper from close range. Moments later, Anderson collected the ball on the right wing, moved infield holding off challenges from the Newcastle defenders, firing a thunderbolt of a shot which clipped the post and went in, his first goal in nearly a year! United entered half time 1-0 up and deserved to be ahead.
The second half started with a higher tempo than the first, Sir Alex was clearly unhappy with the number of wasted chances and he also had words with Cleverley over his miss. This had a positive effect upon the youngster as he got United’s second goal of the game, curling a low shot from outside the box into the bottom corner of the net.
United continued to play well and were in control of the game until Newcastle brought on the lively Papa Cisse. Within seconds of coming on Cisse made an immediate impact, getting on the end of a great cross from Ferguson and heading the ball home making it 2-1.
United looked to ensure victory with another goal and immediately went on the attack. Rooney released Chicharito who evaded the challenge of the Newcastle defender to get a shot of on goal, only to see his shot strike the crossbar and bounce away to safety.
The game was very open at this point, with a flurry of attacks from both teams. Newcastle launched a good counter attack after Chicharito hit the bar, which resulted in Cisse hitting the crossbar after an acrobatic overhead kick.
United did well to close the game off and Sir Alex will be proud of this performance for several reasons. Three players making their debut in defence at a time when we have so many injuries in that department will be a welcome sign for Sir Alex, plus the return of Darren Fletcher is a massive boost to the team. United play Chelsea in the next round and I would imagine Sir Alex will continue with his selection of a mix of youth and experience.