Manchester United U21s vs. Manchester City U21s: Picking Stars of the Future
Manchester United beat Manchester City 1-0 in the Under-21 Premier League Division 1 on Thursday night, moving top of the table with a game in hand in the process while City remain in third.
While those on show are all trying to impress enough at this level to make it through to the senior side, it's important for them to continue showing consistency and gradual improvement at under-21 level initially, with plenty already getting brief game time or a spot on the bench with the first team in cup competitions.
We've selected some who shone on the night in the derby and can go on to greater things in the future, regardless of whether their eventual breakthrough comes at the club they currently play with or elsewhere.
Joe Rothwell, United
United midfielder Joe Rothwell was a stand-out player in the first half, using space intelligently as he alternated his position between a third central midfielder and a supporting runner behind the lone striker.
Rothwell, pictured during his loan spell at Blackpool, created space for himself by picking up possession between the lines and showed great composure to slot home on the run and open the scoring after 15 minutes of the derby.
Once Rothwell was subbed off in the second half, it was notable that the tempo of United's game slowed and play went an awful lot more directly from back to front.
Aleix Garcia, City
Manchester City enjoyed a lot of possession on the night without really penetrating United's defence, with little movement in the forward line and too few midfielders keen to make a run beyond their striker.
In the second half, it was notable that Aleix Garcia, formerly of Villarreal, was the one trying to make the difference in that regard, playing faster passes into feet and then running off the front man in an attempt to make up numbers in the box.
His set pieces weren't on point on the night, but three times he managed to find clear shooting chances in the box—only for stout defending to block his route to goal. Still, he was the biggest spark in City's game and showcased his ability on the ball to good effect.
RoShaun Williams, United
One of the most impressive performers on the night—and a highly rated prospect within the club setup over the longer term—was United central defender RoShaun Williams.
Despite only being 17 years of age, Williams had no trouble with City's attack thanks to his combination of power and technical ability, while his composure at bringing the ball out of defence was also impressive.
He has already captained United's youth teams and, playing ahead of his age group again, must be hopeful of making an eventual progression toward the first team.
Angus Gunn, City
Goalkeeper might turn out to be the hardest position of all to move up from the under 21s to the first team, but there's little doubt Angus Gunn has some ability.
Gunn didn't have too much to do in a match with little penalty-box action, but he made one good early stop against Will Keane in a one-on-one situation and was fast off his line when he needed to be. Gunn's father, Bryan, is a former Scottish international who represented Norwich City—also as a goalkeeper.
Opposite number Joel Pereira also deserves a nod for his performance in goal for Manchester United...though arguably has an even more difficult job than Angus Gunn to get through to the first team!