Barclays U-21 Premier League
Monday 26 November
Moss Lane, Altrincham
MANCHESTER UNITED 2
(Vermijl 60, Tunnicliffe 62)
(Lynch 10, Reed 61)
Three goals inside two minutes and 45 seconds illuminated United’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
Marnick Vermijl and Ryan Tunnicliffe got on the scoresheet as Warren Joyce’s team twice had to come from behind but qualification for the Elite phase of the competition remains in the balance despite moving into second place in the table.
The Reds suffered a pre-match blow when Davide Petrucci was forced to withdraw from the line-up and the soggy surface played its part in ensuring the first half was extremely disappointing.
Jordan Pickford had a nervous moment when spilling a Charni Ekangamene shot but he clutched it safely at the second attempt and it was the Black Cats who drew first blood on 10 minutes. Roarie Deacon cut in from the left to feed an unmarked Craig Lynch, who capitalised on the space to bury a low drive beyond Sam Johnstone.
Tunnicliffe’s run led to Pickford pushing the ball away from his near post with difficulty and the keeper dealt well with Federico Macheda after the Italian displayed neat control. Adam Mitchell almost picked out Adam Reed after a Vermijl slip before United finally burst into life around the 33-minute mark.
Tom Lawrence beautifully picked out Bebe but the winger could only swerve his finish into the side-netting while, seconds later, Tunnicliffe volleyed against a post with a side-foot effort after Lawrence fed Bebe again and Macheda was unable to make a proper connection in the middle.
The second half was to provide more entertainment even though it started slowly with Michele Fornasier’s important block after Deacon outstripped Frederic Veseli the only noteworthy incident until the game went goal crazy as the hour approached.
Vermijl, advanced from his left-back role, beating several defenders, and unleashed a stunning strike past Pickford for a superb solo effort, only for the visitors to instantly regain the lead. Johnstone saved Reed’s initial header but could not gather the ball on the greasy surface and the Sunderland skipper pounced to smuggle it into the net.
Undeterred, United levelled again with substitute Angelo Henriquez’s incisive pass allowing Larnell Cole to nudge into Tunnicliffe’s pass and the midfielder claimed his first goal of the season with a sweet finish.
Pickford made a superb save to deny Tunnicliffe a second after he latched onto a Henriquez through ball but the Wearsiders looked just as likely to grab a winner as Johnstone made smart saves to keep out a Mitchell free-kick and a miskick by Macheda from a corner.
United: Johnstone; Veseli, Fornasier, Thorpe, Vermijl; Bebe, Ekangamene, Cole, Tunnicliffe, Lawrence (Henriquez 60); Macheda. Subs not used: Sutherland, James, McCullough.