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The Academy: WBA 0 United 0

Firstly, apologies for the lack of articles posted this week, it appears you boys have found somewhere else to get your fix of talking about United. Hopefully things will return to normal from tomorrow starting with Eddie’s preview as usual, the relocating Daniele returning with his broadband and his report, and ‘AWOL Eddy’ fixing his technical issues to give us the low-down on what worked or what didn’t work at The Emirates.

I’ve also enlisted two new writers who will hopefully begin publishing from Monday. So again, sorry for the lack of content, hopefully we’ll get this place buzzing again real soon.

As for the game today, very little can be said. WBA edged the first half, United Edged the second, but neither could find that extra touch of quality to take the points.

As predicted McGuiness made a few changes and played players on the fringes of the team and took the opportunity to rest a few weary legs after a tough 90 minutes v Derby 60 hours earlier.

Jonny Sutherland replaced Jacob in goal and, in all honesty was probably the highlight for me. He wasn’t tested too much but it’s blatantly obvious that the kid’s got a natural ability and sense for keeping. He displayed all the basic skills that can’t necessarily be taught, skills that for me, say Joe Coll unfortunately doesn’t appear to have. Joe will need to work much harder to acquire the skills Sutherland displayed and still might not accomplish them.

Sutherland, picked up from Crewe Alexandra in 2006, has been ‘on the radar’ of many observers of the youth teams ever since. He’s seen little action with the U18’s so far but has recently been present in the matchday squads. Today saw him drafted in for his first start, and although first impressions sometimes turn out to be misplaced, with his confident composed nature and willingness to command his box and his defenders, you can see he no doubt has the raw talent to potentially stay at United for years.

Louis Rowley looked steady at left back in his first start of the season, Matty Wilkinson looked concentrated and efficient at centre half in his first full game of the season. Hendrie again impressed in the centre of midfield, this time not so dominant over partner Charni Ekangamene who was indisciplined and frustrated throughout. Charni will find it tough to get into the team as we get further into the season if our injured players return and return to anything like their previous form. The left back position is possibly his best hope but if Wilkinson can maintain his fitness and get a run of games it could prove the catalyst to Tyler Blackett returning there and creating a well balanced and potent back four of Love McCullough Wilkinson & Blackett.

With both teams exerting much energy to overcome their opponents on the Wednesday night, it was no surprise the game was played out in the centre of midfield with neither team finding much space in behind or down the channels, opportunities were limited to hopeful crosses or balls flashed across goals with no one able to add the finishing touches.

James Weir looked uncomfortable further upfield in place of Mats Daehli. Mats dropped to the bench for the first half for a well earned rest before turning the game in United’s favour in the second half. He and Januzaj made a massive difference to the potency of United’s attacks but unusually couldn’t unlock the stubborn, well organised Albion defence. Januzaj also sat out the first half before replacing Donald Love who took a knock and went off as a precaution.

Gyliano van Velzen dropped back into the hole, Sam Byrne resumed the lone striker role and Kenji Gorre operated out on the left. This combination (with James Weir on the right) was never going to produce a hatful of clear-cut chances or goals. They worked hard to keep possession but too many times they were indecisive and too slow to release the killer pass. Byrne will run all day, not always into the most dangerous of areas but he’ll give you all he can from start to finish. Next time you watch Sam, keep an eye on him when he attempts to close down the opposition. I’ve noticed him doing this for weeks and, if he actually went to win the ball with 100% conviction, he’d probably block a lot more clearances and passes out of defence. He’s deceptively quick and often gets to the man as he’s clearing it, but instead of believing in his ability to block the ball, he kind of sticks out a leg in the hope he might win the ball, it looks more of a token gesture than a determined attempt to regain possession or apply unwanted pressure. Put your body on the line and be brave Sam.

United’s next outing is at Carrington next Saturday in an 11:00am kickoff that pits them up against Everton. Unfortunately there’s a certain FA Cup tie in Liverpool that needs attending so the Academy takes a side-step for me for just one day.

With a similar league record to ours, Everton should offer another stern challenge, but the likely return of the strongest eleven in preparation for the trip to Swansea should see United continue their great run of form and results.

Please, feel free to comment on the article in the comments section and also discuss anything Academy related on Twitter, I’m always willing to to talk!

The full match can be viewed on MUTV from 06:00am Sunday morning.

@Rimmerstweets …… follow me!