The Manchester United u18s played their final Premier League Cup group stage encounter after the international break.
United needed to win because only the top team could advance, so they wasted no time in going all out. Malachi Sharpe got a chance to head into the right channel and cut back to Ethan Wheatley, who hit a one-time shot that struck the post.
United continued to thwart Southampton’s opportunities in the first five minutes. Harry Amass slipped past Sharpe to fire from a wide angle, but the keeper’s feet saved it, sending Wheatley in for the rebound. However, clever defense foiled his attempt.
However, it didn’t take long to make the breakthrough, as Wheatley gave United the lead in the seventh minute. James Scanlon, on the left wing, was the recipient of Jack Fletcher’s pass. He curved his shot to the far post, where Dylan Moody, the Southampton keeper, could only parry it into Wheatley’s path for a simple finish.
Scanlon nearly added a second goal with a curled effort toward the right corner, but stretched Moody was able to turn it around the post this time as United continued to dominate the game.
Midway through the half, Southampton created their own danger as they pushed the ball into United’s box and found an open Princewill Ehibhatiomhan. If Elyh Harrison hadn’t made an incredible save to stop the close-range effort, he would have scored.
Then, in the 35th minute, United added another. Once more, Jack Fletcher was in control of the situation as he sent a superbly weighted through ball to Sharpe, whose shot was parried far into the heavens, allowing Wheatley to enter the net behind him.
Wheatley finished his hat-trick a few minutes later, increasing United’s lead. It began, predictably enough, with Jack Fletcher gaining possession high up the pitch once more. He then quickly passed the ball to Scanlon, who set up Wheatley for a goal that was skillfully scored with his weaker foot.
At the half, it was 0–3, but both teams could have easily won thanks to a number of outstanding saves from Harrison and Moody.
The second half commenced at a more leisurely tempo as United attempted to settle down and conclude the first half with a more composed strategy.
It wasn’t until the very end that replacement Ashton Missin gave the game some zip, sprinting down the right side and crossing from Gabriele Biancheri, who was foiled by another of Moody’s foot saves reminiscent of De Gea.
However, Missin pounced on a misdirected pass from Southampton in the 78th minute, sprinting into the box and finding Biancheri, whose shoddy initial attempt luckily deflected past the keeper enabling for a simple tap in.
Biancheri then drove into the area and was brought down for a penalty, bringing United’s lead to five. Panenka-ing down the middle of the goal, Wheatley stepped up to add his fourth of the game in style. A fantastic performance demonstrating why the team is attempting to determine his future.
Ehibhatiomhan scored a late consolation goal for Southampton, but it was much too late to mount a comeback as United won 1–5.
With the victory, United is now leading the group and virtually guaranteed to advance; the last match between Reading and Wolves will decide whether or not one of them can overcome an improbable seven goal deficit.