Whatever happens in the Premier League title race over the coming four weeks Manchester United fans can celebrate silverware once again after Warren Joyce’s reserve side secured the Premier Reserve League North title on Tuesday night. Facing Newcastle reserves at Whitley Park, Joyce’s outfit came from three goals down inside 30 minutes to win 6-3 in truly spectacular style, with striker Will Keane scoring four.
On the night striker Keane grabbed all the headlines as the young Geordies capitulated, before the outstanding Italian midfielder Davide Petrucci and Belgian defender Ritchie De Laet also found the net. With four fixtures remaining United’s reserves are now seven clear of Liverpool – which has played twice more – and will face the Southern champions Aston Villa in an end-of-season play-off.
“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet but the main objective was getting the win which meant we won the league,” Keane told MUTV.
“That was the main aim going into the game and we managed to do that so it was good. The defence played quite a high line at Newcastle so I was always looking to get through and, in the end, I should’ve scored six but I’ll take four as I’m happy with that.
“We usually play 4-3-3 so, most of the time, I’ve been on my own up front and it’s been quite tough so when Ritchie [De Laet] came up, it helped. He’s a big, physical presence and his pace helped me get a bit more time and he assisted me as well so it was good. I’ve had a good run in the team and scored quite a lot of goals, which I’ve been pleased with. Overall, the team have done well and the team spirit has been good, we’ve all got on well.”
Tuesday’s result, and the title confirmation, is ample reward for a fine campaign, which has seen Joyce’s men rack up 13 wins in 18 league games this season, scoring 50 goals in the process.
And if progress in the reserves is measured not solely by victories and silverware, but also by the conveyor belt to Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team, then Joyce can be very proud of his achievements this season. Will and Michael Keane, Ezekiel Fryers, Paul Pogba and Larnell Cole have each made their competitive first team débuts in the current season.
Indeed, the talent pool is so deep that Petrucci would surely have found more first team opportunities in the cup competitions had it not been for injury problems in previous seasons, while Jesse Lindgard has been outstanding.
On Thursday the youngsters visit Liverpool, with the Scousers likely to finish above Sunderland as runners-up, before concluding the season with games against Chelsea, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the aforementioned Sunderland.
Then on to the play-off with Villa, which is likely to be held at Old Trafford in May. If it is any omen, Joyce’s men recently beat the young Villa side 3-1 at Moss Lane, Altrincham.
(Inman 16, Airey 26pen, Taylor 32)
(W.Keane 40,40,54,73 Petrucci 64, De Laet 76)
Newcastle: Alnwick, Nzuzi, Moyo, Logan, J.Henderson, Folan (Nicholson 68), Maddison (Kitchen 55), Richardson, Airey, D.Taylor, Inman (McGorrigan 68).
United: Johnstone, Vermijl, M.Keane, Fryers, De Laet (Fornasier 79), Cole (Thorpe 51), Tunnicliffe, Petrucci, Pogba, Lingard (Blackett 87), W.Keane.
The Key Men
Will Keane – striker Keane will either find himself away from Old Trafford on loan next season, or in Ferguson’s first team squad such is the talent on offer. Keane possess an excellent first touch and a genuine eye for goal, with 17 goals in 23 appearances and another eight assists
Michael Keane – many reserves watchers have been genuinely surprised by Michael’s progress this season, where the defender has appeared in 24 fixtures in the campaign and made his first team debut. The 19-year-old Stockport-born defender has a shot at making it with the club if the rate of progress is replicated next season.
Ezekiel Fryers – defender Fryers impressed many supporters in Carling Cup appearances with the first team this season. Indeed, after frustrating years of injury problems Fryers has surprised many with his composure and progress at both left-back and central defence this season. However, with the youngster out of contract in the summer his United future is in doubt.
Paul Pogba – the man on so many supporters’ lips is seemingly set on a move to Juventus, which will earn the young Frenchman more than €1 million per season and his agent a small fortune. There is plenty of talent, but it has not always been applied at reserve level this season. However, if Pogba stays, Ferguson is sure to promote the midfielder to the first team squad.
Davide Petrucci – the stylish Italian midfielder is another out of contract this summer and may not start the new campaign with United. After two years of injury problems Petrucci has done very well to accelerate his progress this season, with a series of inventive central midfield displays and nine assists. Many supporters would like to see more from the Italian, but at 21 he needs to play at a higher level than the reserves.
Larnell Cole – the diminutive midfielder, who operates predominantly from the right, but also in a variety of attacking positions, has been outstanding in the campaign. Blessed with an outstanding first touch, and the ability to perform in a number of positions, Cole made his first team debut in the Carling Cup victory at Leeds United.
Jesse Lingard – the Yin to Cole’s Yang, 19-year-old Lingard received a first team squad number this season as reward for a superb reserve campaign, which included 21 appearances. A utility attacking midfielder likened to Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez by Danny Welbeck, who will benefit from first team football on loan next season.
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Data courtesy of Doron Salomon.