Manchester United 3 Tottenham 2: Reds win Under 21 Premier League final after dramatic comeback at Old Trafford.
The day after their senior team missed out on the Champions League, Tottenham’s youngsters felt similar pain after they squandered a two-goal lead as Manchester United fought back to win the Barclays Under 21 Premier League final at Old Trafford.
Jonathan Obika and Alex Pritchard gave the visitors, who had to play the final away from home due to the way the semi-finals were drawn, a two-goal advantage at half-time.
Even with as many as a team’s worth of players out on loan at any one time, Tottenham walked both sections of the league, scoring 77 goals in their 26 matches, and had already beaten United home and away.
Ferguson’s last word: Manchester United youngsters lift the trophy after beating Tottenham 3-2
‘We said to the boys before the game that officially this is the gaffer’s last game at Old Trafford’
But United defender Marnick Vermijl pulled one back just before the hour and a two more goals from Larnell Cole, who scored three against Liverpool last week, took the title for United.
With outgoing manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his replacement David Moyes both at a League Managers Association dinner in London, it was left to coach Rene Meulensteen to report back to his bosses and after a difficult start, any text messages from the Dutchman would have brought smiles to their faces.
Dejection: Spurs’ Zeki Fryers, who left United last summer, was on the losing side
Champions: Manchester United came from 0-2 down to eventually secure a 3-2 victory
Pace: United’s Larnell Cole scores their second goal to draw the sides level
Crunch: United’s Marnick Vermijl is taken out by Spurs’ Tom Carroll
Manchester United: Amos, Vermijl, Thorpe, M.Keane, James, Cole, Ekangamene, Pearson (Lawrence 56), Tunnicliffe, Lingard, Januzaj.
Subs not used: Sutherland, Wilson, A.Pereira, Grimshaw.
Goals: Vermij, Larnell (x2)
Tottenham Hotspur: Archer, Fredericks, Hall, Veljkovic, Fryers, Bentaleb, Carroll, Pritchard (McEvoy, 64), Obika, Kane, Ceballos.
Subs not used: Barthram, Miles, Gallifuoco, Stewart.
Goals: Obika, Pritchard
United’s Belgian prospect Adnan Januzaj, who was an unused substitute in the 5-5 draw at West Brom on Sunday, looked sharp but cut an isolated figure in attack as the home side attempted to contain Tottenham.
But in the opening period they simply had no answer to the quality, experience and power of Chris Ramsey’s team and only really threatened with a Cole effort in the first half.
The visitors had Obika denied with a stabbed effort that come back off the bar from a Harry Kane cross and Kane then crash a shot against the top of the post before they took a deserved lead.
United goalkeeper Ben Amos failed to clear a Cristian Ceballos cross under heavy pressure from Obika and the Tottenham striker turned in when Pritchard headed the ball towards goal.
Ahead: Tottenham’s Jonathan Obika (left) celebrates scoring
Just before the interval, United midfielder Will Tunnicliffe gave the ball straight to Obika midway inside the home team’s half and Pritchard thumped a drive into the corner to double the advantage.
Warren Joyce chucked on Tom Lawrence to support Januzaj but it was the unlikely source of Vermijl that pulled one back just before the hour.
The Belgian right-back, 21, who featured in the Capital One Cup win over Newcastle in September, surged forward and scored with a powerful cross-shot.
United continued to increase the pressure but Amos was forced into a smart save from Kenneth McEvoy’s powerful low effort.
Control: United’s Jesse Lingard is chased by Tottenham’s Grant Hill
Cole was booked for diving when he went down under a challenge from Tottenham goalkeeper Jordan Archer.
But the equaliser came with 15 minutes remaining, when a quick break from Lingard saw one effort saved before Cole hit a shot high into the net from close range.
The job was complete when Cole drilled in another low effort from a Vermijl cross with just over two minutes remaining.
Ferguson may be on his way out but United’s youngsters are not about to shed their reputation for comebacks.
United goalscoring hero Cole, said: ‘I’m over the moon. You can’t ask for more. The whole team has done well over the season so I’m happy. We’ve had different teams at different stages but we’ve won it two years in a row.
‘It was always going to be tough. They’re a good side and can really play but we had to get into them and we got forward and got the goals.
Gunning for the trophy: A delighted group of United youngsters celebrate after scoring their third goal
‘This is what dreams are made of. Next season I just want to push on and getting into the first team is the main aim.’
United captain Tom Thorpe said: ‘It’s fitting that it’s the boss’s last trophy, to win it like this. There was a lot of belief and we knew the goals were our fault and we could come out and make it right.’
Joyce said: ‘The first-half the two goals we conceded were individual errors really. It’s probably the third team we’ve put together this season but the bulk of that side won the Youth Cup and won everything last season, won the senior Cup this year and they’ve shown a lot of character, that they can take criticism and come back and dig themselves out of holes and that’s what you need as a United player.
Wasteful: Obika shows his dejection after a missed chance
First time: United have won the inaugural Under 21 Premier League
Wet success: Manager Warren Joyce is drenched by his players
‘Tottenham are an excellent passing side and have a lot of creative players and have several players that will make the grade. They’re a bit older and more experienced but the heart and character shone through in the end and we deserved to win.
‘We said to the boys before the game that officially this is the gaffer’s last game at Old Trafford and it’s been a weird weekend for everyone concerned and this is another emotional day and to finish the way we’ve finished we’re delighted.’