Manchester United’s under-19s side were victim of a last-minute equaliser against FC Copenhagen in their UEFA Youth League clash.
It was a valiant effort from Travis Binnion’s side on what looked to be a difficult pitch to play on in Denmark and they scored twice in quick succession towards the start of the game.
Ethan Williams’ opener within 10 minutes was a great left-footed finish and was quickly doubled three minutes later when Ethan Wheatley took advantage of a mistake from a Copenhagen defender.
Copenhagen were soon gifted the chance to get back into the game following a questionable penalty decision. In the end, it was the brother of Ramsus Hojlund, Emil, who stepped up to take the spot kick and he struck home with conviction to halve the deficit.
The remainder of the game did not include many chances for either side, with United’s backline defending resolutely against the group’s table-toppers.
Yet, just as the game entered additional time at the end of the second half, the hosts equalised after Amin Chiakha swept home a low cross from inside the six-yard box.
Travis Binnion’s young side will feel unfortunate to not come away with three points, and Bayern Munich’s late winner against Galatasaray makes qualification from the group that more difficult for them.
However, there were positives to take from the clash and three players in particular stood out amongst the rest.
Elyh Harrison (GK)
Elyh Harrison is just 17 years of age but already looks like an extremely promising talent between the sticks.
The goalkeeper joined United’s academy from Stevenage at the beginning of last season and is now playing regularly for Under-23s in the PL2.
In this game, Harrison displayed many of the attributes that perhaps would be questioned about a keeper of his size and preferences.
Whilst we were able to see his excellent ball-playing abilities throughout, the youngster made some important saves and rarely palmed the ball out into dangerous areas. His cross-claiming was also completely sound barring one moment in the second half.
Willy Kambwala (CB)
Willy Kambwala is another popular name within the United Academy. The French defender joined the club from FC Sochaux three years ago but has had injuries interrupt his development over that time.
This season, though, the defender has made 11 appearances for the youth sides and looked United’s best defender in this encounter.
“They’re the sorts of things that win you games,” Ben Thornley proclaimed after Kambwala made a crucial block inside the area midway through the second half. And whilst United were unable to hold on in the end, it was no fault of the 19-year-old.
His immense strength was on display during the clash and he also showed positive signs in his ball-playing into forward areas. At times he was perhaps too aggressive in certain areas but his dominance was best shown in deeper areas with headed clearances and blocks to save United, even after he moved to right-back after 65 minutes.
Kobbie Mainoo (CM)
This was by no means a classic game that academy watchers have learned to enjoy seeing from Kobbie Mainoo, who is still returning to top fitness levels after his injury. It would’ve been easy to include his midfield partner Dan Gore, who had a solid game too.
Mainoo currently though is attracting levels of attention from an academy player that not many have received in the past. And whilst it was not a perfect display from the midfielder, we saw moments throughout as to why this attention is coming his way.
It was a difficult game to play in the middle of the park, partly because of the conditions of the pitch, and Mainoo was able to use his body, strength and turn of pace to create separation from his marker on several occasions.
His passing into positive areas was also seen best during a spell in the first half, as well as moments in the second half. Those disguised passes from the midfield are often what the first team lacks in games.
Most importantly, however, was that Mainoo lasted 90 minutes and was able to complete two games in a week for the youth sides. He will be looking to improve further if he’s to get those expected chances under Erik ten Hag but the work is positive so far.
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