In a week in which Manchester United's youth setup has drawn plenty of plaudits, the club's under-21 side moved to the top of the league on Monday, coming from behind to win 2-1 at Middlesbrough.
That was after former league leaders Sunderland were beaten 1-0 by bottom side Leicester City, who moved up to 10th with their win; the Red Devils now find themselves two points clear of the Black Cats having played a game fewer.
Chelsea also missed the chance to close ground at the top as they played out a stalemate with Southampton. In Division 2 a point for Arsenal against Wolverhampton Wanderers pushed them to within five points of table toppers Derby County with three games in hand on the Rams.
Here’s a look at how the standings are shaping up in the wake of this round of fixtures as well as a recap of how Monday’s action panned out.
|Middlesbrough U21||1-2||Manchester United U21|
|Sunderland U21||0-1||Leicester U21|
|Arsenal U21||1-1||Wolves U21|
|Blackburn U21||2-0||Swansea City U21|
|1||Man Utd U21||15||12||1||3||36||13||23||37|
|3||Man City U21||15||7||3||5||26||19||7||24|
|3||Aston Villa U21||17||9||4||4||21||21||0||31|
|5||West Brom U21||17||6||8||3||20||15||5||26|
|6||West Ham U21||18||7||4||7||29||29||0||25|
A Manchester United XI containing Adnan Januzaj had to battle hard for victory in the north-east but eventually fought their way back from a goal down to beat Middlesbrough 2-1 and end the evening as league leaders.
After a goalless first period, it was the hosts who took the lead through Callum Cooke after a neat buildup down the right flank.
As noted by Jonathon Taylor of the Evening Gazette, it was a disappointing day overall for Januzaj, who was withdrawn after an hour:
Despite his absence, United came on strong late on and were given a brilliant opportunity to turn the game around. James Weir was hauled down in the box when through on goal, with Jonny Burn subsequently dismissed; Andreas Pereira finished cooly from 12 yards to level things up.
With 10 men, it was always going to be tough for Boro to hold out, and to compound a miserable end to the game, Nathan McGinley turned the ball into his own net with eight minutes remaining to give United a vital three points.
It was a win that saw them take top spot, with Sunderland beaten by a spirited Leicester side, who grabbed a vital three points thanks to a Jacob Blyth penalty.
As noted by James Hunter of the Chronicle, it was a game in which the Black Cats handed a trial to former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue, although he was unable to help the team to victory:
Chelsea remain a long way off the pace after their draw with Southampton, trailing United by 18 points having played three games fewer than the league leaders.
Both sides could have won this one on the night, and with the clock ticking down, Tammy Abraham came closest for the Blues, watching on in anguish as his effort came back off the woodwork.
In Division 2, Arsenal edged past Aston Villa into second place and closer to Derby County at the top, although they'll be disappointed not to have taken all three points at Boreham Wood after a 1-1 draw against Wolves.
Donyell Malen gave the young Gunners the lead after 16 minutes in this one, surging past an opposing defender and placing a cool finish into the corner. It was a lead that would only last two minutes, though, with Tommy Rowe reacting quickest after a scramble in the box.
At the interval Arsenal youth team expert Jeorge Bird noted the visitors did have a strong team out and was impressed by the Gunners’ goalscorer:
Ht. 1-1. Wolves playing some senior players and have caused problems for Arsenal. Huddart has made some good saves. Malen always a threat.— Jeorge Bird (@jeorgebird) February 29, 2016
Arsenal did press after the break and did create opportunities to win this one. But a more experienced Wolves side were able to hold firm and secure a point.
In the second tier's other match on Monday, Blackburn Rovers were too good for Swansea City, as they secured a 2-0 win. It's a result which moves Rovers level with their opponents and gives them breathing space in their attempts to steer clear of the bottom of the table.