YOUNG GUNS: United end group stage with Young Boys draw
PA - Martin Rickett
Manchester United youngster Mason Greenwood scored an acrobatic stunner that lit up an otherwise drab Champions League draw with Young Boys.
Having started the continental campaign with a shock late loss in Switzerland, recently-appointed interim boss Ralf Rangnick was able to make 11 changes with top spot in Group F already assured.
Greenwood underlined his credentials with an excellent volleyed opener that Fabian Rieder cancelled out superbly late in the first half, with Wednesday’s Old Trafford dead rubber ending in a 1-1 draw.
How much Rangnick will glean from his second match in charge is unclear given the circumstances, but at least he got a first-hand glimpse of the undoubted quality possessed by United’s homegrown forward.
Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga, both 19, also showed flashes of quality against David Wagner’s visitors, who drew level when Rieder capitalised on sloppy United play to score an excellent 20-yard effort.
The second half had distinct friendly vibes about it and lacked the control Rangnick has repeatedly expressed his desire for, but it was at least memorable for three debutants.
Charlie Savage – son of Robbie – and Zidane Iqbal came on after 35-year-old Tom Heaton, who made his senior debut for the club nearly two decades after first joining them.
There was an impressive crowd given the weather, group situation and fixture schedule, with Heaton the senior member of a reduced seven-man bench comprised entirely of academy products.
Nemanja Matic skippered the totally-rotated side as rain poured at Old Trafford, where United started on the front foot.
Juan Mata’s clipped ball put Elanga and Diallo through early on, only for the pair to get tangled before the latter’s shot was saved from a difficult angle.
Greenwood was another part of United’s exciting attacking unit and showed Rangnick his talent with an exceptional finish just nine minutes into the match.
Luke Shaw, making his return from a head injury, overlapped down the left and sent over a cross met by an acrobatic volley into the bottom left-hand corner.
United remained on top throughout the first half, with Mata lifting over a well-placed free-kick before Diallo made a poor decision to see a good opportunity go begging.
Rangnick’s high press almost bore fruit in the 34th minute when Greenwood took possession, roared down the left before cutting back for Mata to hit a strike bound for the net until a late Young Boys intervention.
Shaw saw penalty appeals for handball against Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu ignored as a one-sided first half headed to a conclusion.
Dean Henderson dealt with hopeful attempts from Michel Aebischer, Rieder and Christopher Martins Pereira during Young Boys’ rare voyages forwards, but an optimistic 42nd-minute strike would beat him.
Sloppy play by Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was cut out by Rieder, who jinked inside and unleashed a firm strike that bent into the top right-hand corner in front of the Stretford End.
It was a fine goal that United nearly cancelled out inside the opening minute of the second half, but goalkeeper Guillaume Faivre did just enough to stop Elanga at the end of a driving run with Greenwood ready to pounce.
Jordan Siebatcheu – Young Boys’ matchwinner in September – had an attempt, before Greenwood saw a low shot saved by a goalkeeper who spread himself well to prevent Elanga from a Jesse Lingard pass.
Matic was breathing a sigh of relief as Meschack Elia failed to punish his defensive wobble, with another mistake at the back allowing Quentin Maceiras to rifle narrowly wide from a cutback.
Rangnick brought on Shola Shoretire and Heaton after introducing Teden Mengi, who produced an excellent recovery challenge to deny Wilfried Kanga as United’s play became increasingly ragged.
Nico Maier struck across the face of goal after another Matic error in the rain.
Savage and Iqbal came on for their United debuts on a night that ended with the concerning sight of Wan-Bissaka receiving treatment by an advertising hoarding after the final whistle.
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