Manchester United under-21 1-0 Manchester City under-21: Rothwell strikes as Reds move top
Joe Rothwell celebrates with provider Will Keane | Photo: John Peters/Manchester United

Manchester United under-21s took the youth bragging rights as Joe Rothwell's cool finish saw them win 1-0 at Leigh Sports Village against neighbours Manchester City.

Warren Joyce's side were in superb form coming into the match, having thumped Norwich City for 7 with none in return on Monday, and continued with a dominating performance against their rivals. City were unusually unimpressive, seemingly unable to click for the majority of the game.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who scored one of the seven on Monday, recovered from a mistake to provide a great long ball to Will Keane. The young striker, who netted five times against Norwich, held the ball up superbly, shielding the ball from his defender, before squaring it to midfielder Joe Rothwell who slotted past Angus Gunn.

A young United fan watches on | Photo: John Peters/Manchester United
A young United fan watches on | Photo: John Peters/Manchester United

United were fully in control of the first half proceedings. Keane created an early chance, nabbing the ball of City before his second touch let him down, Gunn pouncing on the heaviness of it and claiming at Keane's feet.

Keane, clearly full of confidence from his incredible performance on Monday, struck another early shot, turning his marker well before Kean Bryan blocked it for a corner.

Bersant Celina, who played for City's first team at the weekend, was impressive throughout, but Ro-Shaun Williams tackled him excellently in the United penalty area.

Fosu-Mensah, who, despite his young age, was comfortable throughout the pitch and has continued to impress since moving up to the under-21 side, almost allowed City through with a mistake. Yet the Dutchman recovered well, exchanging passes with his midfield before playing it long to Keane. Having scored 10 goals in his previous five games, Keane turned provider. He held off his marker and held up the ball, allowing Rothwell to catch up with him on the edge of the box and strike coolly past Gunn to give United the lead.

Rothwell celebrates his 16th minute goal | Photo: John Peters/Manchester United
Rothwell celebrates his 16th minute goal | Photo: John Peters/Manchester United

Joel Castro Pereira, who spent time on loan at Rotherham  earlier this season, produced a fine save to deny City, tipping the ball over his bar well. Regan Poole blocked well as City created half-chances, but little less than that.

United had worries when Josh Harrop  lay frustrated on the floor, seemingly with a groin injury. After running through three City players, the youngster overreached for the ball but was able to continue, allowing Sadiq El-Fitouri to sit back on the bench.

Harrop almost doubled United's lead with a fantastic, powerful free-kick that Gunn parried away, also saving the rebound.

Celina played a David Silva-esque pass through but his teammate couldn't quite reach it with Fosu-Mensah clearing things up for United well.

United went in at the break in front, having been more organised than their local rivals.

Harrop saw a curling shot dip goalwards but drift wide of the right post before Sinan Bytyqi impressed on the right flank. The 21-year-old was strong and persistent, seeing off the challenges of Joe Riley before progressing and delivering a good ball into the box, if limited by his defender. It was what City were missing, but that chance didn't spark anymore.

James Weir took a tumble in the penalty area but penalty shouts were limited, seemingly coming together with the City defender. The young Citizens broke but couldn't break the United defence, solid throughout.

Cameron Humphreys, who played against Real Madrid in pre-season, came on for Manu Garcia who was quiet. Another midfielder, Josh Harrop, was substituted, this time due to the injury he picked up earlier. Former-City player El Fitouri replaced him.

Pereira dealt with a looping City header which looked like it was dipping awkwardly under the crossbar, having had a quiet evening.

The goalscorer Joe Rothwell was replaced by young Marcus Rashford  who has been a part of United's first-team matchday squads this season The game quietened for a period, with Keane's powerful but wide strike the only moment of note.

City came to life in the final moments of the game, forcing a brilliant block from debutant Regan Poole and a good parried save from Pereira. Yet they couldn't, and did not deserve, to level things up in the last minute.

The Citizens were off their game at Leigh Sports Village, watched by over 5,500. It was a game that did not live up to expectations, with United dominating for large periods of the match, seeing them go to the top of the table above Sunderland.

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