Manchester United u23 1-0 Villarreal B: Harrop's goal seals excellent win against older opposition

A 34th-minute clinical finish from midfielder Josh Harrop saw Warren Joyce's United side win their first game of the Premier League International Cup and get a vital three points against last year's champions.

Manchester United u23 1-0 Villarreal B: Harrop's goal seals excellent win against older opposition
Photo: Joel Goodman/MEN
Manchester United u23
1 0
Villarreal B
Manchester United u23: Johnstone, El Fitouri, Tuanzebe, Poole, Riley, Scott, Redmond (Olosunde, '45), McTominay, Hamilton (Mitchell, '90+4), Harrop (Kehine, '80), Willock.
Villarreal B: Femenias, Ie, Alfonso (Peris, '45), Bueno, Fernandez, Morlanes, Garcia (Carlos Martinez), Guerra, Gonzalez, Raba, Lazo (Aitor Cantalapiedra, '65).
SCORE: 1-0, min. 34, Josh Harrop (assist from Ethan Hamilton).

A clinical finish from midfielder Josh Harrop saw Manchester United under-23s win their opening game of the Premier League International Cup against last year's champions Villarreal.

The Reds have turned down the offer of participation in the tournament for the past two consecutive seasons but, with no UEFA Youth League action this year due to a failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, they are making the debut this year.

Warren Joyce's side will have learnt a great deal from their older opposition, with two Villarreal substitutes aged 27 and 30.

Hour delay at kick-off after power cut

After an hour delay to kick-off due to a power cut in the wake of a lightning storm in the North-West of England, Villarreal began the game in the better fashion, perhaps due to their greater experience. The Yellow Submarine forced goalkeeper Sam Johnstone into action within moments of kick-off, forcing United to move out of a possible stupor that may have come about due to the delay. Right-back Edgar Ié initially got Johnstone involved early before Lazo flashed a ball across the face of goal, slightly too far in front of Javi Garcia, who would have had an open goal had he reached it.

The Spanish side, who play in the third division, were very comfortable in possession in the early stages, with United sitting off their opposition. With Joyce's young side settling into the game, however, they began to press Villarreal more and took control of the game. Left-back Joe Riley stormed forward, through three Villarreal defenders, and almost poked the ball to Matty Willock, the midfielder playing up front, but the ball was snatched off him.

Harrop created an excellent chance for himself, pouncing on a heavy touch before storming forward with the ball. His long-range shot, however, was soft and wide of the left post. Moments later, he was booked for simulation in the penalty area. Under-23 debutante Ethan Hamilton  created the chance, turning his marker on the left flank before getting the ball in the penalty area. The 17-year-old Hamilton had a superb debut and will have earned himself more chances in the under-23 side.

Hamilton assists Harrop for winning goal

There was quality from both sides, Charlie Scott's free-kick headed clear before Regan Poole tackled Javi Garcia powerfully and excellently. Hamilton's quality, shining through any nerves he may have had, created Harrop another chance to give the Reds the lead. Hamilton stole the ball off a Villarreal player before dribbling forward in the centre of the pitch, coming close to the six-yard box and passing to Harrop who finished clinically.

Johnstone claimed a shot from Lazo and saw a free-kick straight at him after Daniel Raba slipped while taking it. Both sides made substitutions at half-time with Felipe Alfonso replaced by José Peris for Villarreal and Matthew Olosunde replacing Devonte Redmond for Joyce's side.

Olosunde made an important block from a fierce long-range drive but Villarreal failed to threaten greatly until the 75-minute mark. Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to impress, driving forward with the ball and intelligently earning a free-kick by running across Raba. Scott's effort from that free-kick was well over the crossbar and unthreatening.

United impress throughout game

Matty Willock produced a lovely turn before a shot from outside the penalty area that Femeanis caught easily. Raba had a chipped effort from 40-yards almost catch Johnstone out but it went wide. 

The United goalkeeper was beaten by a good shot from Gonzalez, but it struck the post. After a threatening spell from the Yellow Submarine, United dominated despite facing older opposition with substitutions for Villarreal seeing a 27-year-old and a 30-year-old come onto the field forming a strong line-up. Captain Axel Tuanzebe stormed out from defence and into attack, shooting twice after a wonderful turn, both efforts were saved.

Scott McTominay, playing in defensive midfield, almost capitalised on an error from Femeanis, the Villarreal goalkeeper punching poorly from a corner. McTominay's header, however, was well over the crossbar.

Substitute Tosin Kehinde almost doubled United's lead in added time, the Reds not content to sit back, after a good cross from Charlie Scott. Tuanzebe did excellently, composed in defence to deny Villarreal in the final few moments of the game.