Manchester United’s Under-18s bounced back from our Youth Cup elimination with a comprehensive victory over Stoke City at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday.
There was a personal triumph for Spanish starlet Alejandro Garnacho, who scored three goals to crown an excellent overall performance. Further goals from Isak Hansen, Omari Forson and, predictably, Charlie McNeill kept our youngsters well on course for the Under-18 Premier League North title.
In keeping with all matches played this weekend, both teams wore black armbands and assembled around the centre circle to observe a two minutes’ silence, as a mark of respect for His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away on Friday.
Early morning snow had given way to brighter conditions as the game started, with United in our normal first-choice strip and the Potters in all-navy blue.
Watch Garnacho’s opening goalVideo
United, two clear of Manchester City at the top of the table, were aiming to consolidate our place at the summit and it took just three minutes to get that mission underway.
Garnacho scored the goal after beating Stoke ‘keeper Xander Parke and full-back Tom Curl to the ball, which had been passed across the area by McNeill.
The visitors were the next to go close when Jai Verma’s diving header looked to be going in, until Dermot Mee pulled off a brilliant fingertip save.
Midway through the half and the Reds increased the lead courtesy of Hansen’s neat right-foot finish from the edge of the area, but on the half-hour we were given a jolt when Verma raced through our defence before rounding Mee and placing the ball in the net to halve the arrears.
Stoke had been gaining in confidence and Verma’s goal was the reward but United were about to produce the perfect riposte, with two goals coming along in as many minutes.
Forson restored United’s two-goal cushion from close range after exchanging passes with Dillon Hoogewerf, which featured an audacious piece of skill from the Dutch youngster.
The young Reds then further stretched our lead, with McNeill providing the link and Garnacho bagging his second goal of the game.
Charlie McNeill netted his 16th of the season, to make it five.
Needless to say, it was a long way back for Stoke, but for 20 minutes of the second half they were successful in the keeping the Reds’ attack at bay. But then United unleashed another salvo with two goals arriving in quick succession.
McNeill, who had spurned an opportunity just a minute earlier, finally got his name on to the scoresheet, for the 16th time this season, with a tidy close-range finish from Hoogewerf’s cutback.
Six minutes later a splendid move with Hansen, substitute Daniel Gore and McNeill all involved ended with an ecstatic Garnacho chalking up his first hat-trick for the club.
There was still work for Mee to do, as he was forced to palm away a late Ryan-Jay Malbon strike, but all in all it was a dominant afternoon for the Reds.
United: Mee; Wellens, Bennett, Svidersky, Jurado (Murray 46); Hansen, Savage; Hoogewerf (Gore 70), Forson, Garnacho; McNeill.
Substitutes not used: Guadagno, Norkett, Mainoo.
Goals: Garnacho 3, 39, 71, Hansen 22, Forson 37, McNeill 65 | Verma 30