Rotherham United 0-2 Manchester United U21s: Youngsters start EFL Trophy campaign in style
ROTHERHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Ethan Laird of Manchester United U21 celebrates with his team mates after scoring his teams first goal of the match during the EFL Trophy match between Rotherham United and Manchester United U21 at AESSEAL New York Stadium on August 6, 2019 in Rotherham, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Manchester United's under-21s side took to the challenge of senior football with confidence, securing an impressive 2-0 win against Sky Bet Championship side Rotherham United in Tuesday night's EFL Trophy clash.

Second-half goals came from Ethan Laird and Largie Ramazani after United had come close on a number of occasions in the first period.

This is Man United's first season in the competition having chosen not to compete last year despite an invitation to do so.

The reputation of the tournament has suffered greatly since the introduction of select under-21 sides, but it's proving fantastic for the development of the young players involved.

Angel GomesTahith Chong and Jimmy Garner all played for United after returning from Asia where they played for the first team during the pre-season tour.

Gomes and Garner both grabbed goals in friendlies out in Australia, Singapore and China, and Chong impressed in other areas.

The story of the match

It was Gomes who bossed the first half, coming close to an opener with two free-kicks; one clever and one beautifully-struck.

Gomes first tried to catch out Rotherham goalkeeper Lewis Price. Taking from the left side of the box, the former-England under-17s captain quickly directed it at the near left post, seeing Price rush over to meet it. It swerved wide but was a sign of things to come.

The 18-year-old tried again soon after, this time with a more traditional curling effort, searching for the top right corner after winning the foul himself.

Gomes and Laird created the most in the first half, and 25 minutes into the second half, it was the latter who put United ahead.

Embed from Getty Images

Laird received a well-weighted pass from left-back Brandon Williams, the Englishman picking up the ball after a cleared corner.

He controlled well, shifted his weight and struck it across Price's body from the edge of the box, slipping it just inside the left post with a fantastic shot.

Four minutes later, Ramazani, the right-winger playing ahead of Laird, doubled United's lead.

Garner, impressive throughout, clipped a 60-yard ball over the top of the Rotherham defence and Ramazani chased down.

The Belgian cut inside from the right and delayed the shot as he moved past two defenders. Just as he crossed the middle of the goal, he pulled it back with a reverse shot into the bottom right corner, surprising Price and hitting the back of the net.

A number of United fans made the short trip to Yorkshire to see their under-21 side, enjoying the occasion and singing about trips to Wembley before cheering every pass in the final 10 minutes.

The young United side grew in confidence after their two goals and almost made it a third in glorious style. Matej Kovar used his feet well throughout the game as the United 'keeper and began to play it out of defence after a Cruyff turn.

The charge forward with speed and precision continued and Ramazani eventually cut it back well for Levitt, only for his shot to hit the post, roll over the line and just stay out.

Questions over tournament must continue to be asked 

It was an excellent performance from Neil Wood's United side, but the question remains over the morals of the tournament's structure.

A competition previously designed to allow a Wembley trip for the lower league side, the Premier League clubs have effectively bought their way into it in order to progress their young players.

It's undoubtedly a much-needed introduction of first-team challenges for these talented English players but whether that should come at the cost of tradition, history and justice for the senior teams involved remains a pressing matter.