Manchester United’s under-21 side were unable to extend their lead at the top of the league on Saturday afternoon as they slipped to defeat to their rivals at the Eithad Stadium.

Having beaten the young Blues 1-0 just nine days previous to this tie, the Red Devils will be disappointed with their showing this weekend as they struggled to match City stride for stride.

When James Weir had a stinging drive cleared off the line in the fifth minute of the game, it appeared to have set a tempo for the encounter, with a very open, end-to-end contest ensuing for a good five minutes. However after that opening period, City collected themselves excellently and took full control, boasting almost all of the possession for most of the rest of the first half.

The opening goal came in the 17th minute when Ashley Smith-Brown caught Pereira in the United net by surprise with a thumping effort towards the near post. It was a deserved goal and City found it almost too easy to dictate the game until the break.

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The opening fifteen minutes of the second half saw a much more purposeful display from Manchester United, with Marcus Rashford and James Weir creating from both sides of City’s box, but the ball just would not sit up in the box for Will Keane, who cut a frustrated figure as he lacked the service he so desperately needed in and around the Blues penalty area.

Just after the hour mark, Rashford whipped in an excellent cross but James Weir completely missed the ball as he went to head it in to equalise – that posed United’s best chance since the beginning of the first half.

Rothwell then opted for a solo effort instead of a pass to Rashford or Weir with United through 3-on-3, but his shot curled wide of the near post.

United continued to be the more dominant side throughout the second half, with the lion’s share of possession, however they lacked that incisive final ball to pull themselves level.

Weir was certainly United’s best chance of an equaliser, popping up everywhere in City’s defensive third – and playing well following his inclusion in United’s travelling squad to face FC Midtjylland in the Europa League earlier in the week.

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City saw a chance to possibly put the game beyond their neighbours go begging when Buckley-Ricketts put Nmecha through on goal but he curled his effort harmlessly wide – and Pereira probably had it covered anyway.

The last ten minutes were much the same as the rest of the second half – United working hard and pressing hard but to no avail.

Angelino was in to score in the 89th minute after some neat passing around the United – but snapped at his shot from the angle and sent it high, wide and spiralling away from the frame of the goal with a wild lash.

The loss isn’t too catastrophic for Warren Joyce’s men, however, as it leaves them still top of the league – two points ahead of Sunderland in second place and a massive ten points ahead of Manchester City.

The junior Red Devils’ next game comes on Monday 29th February when they travel to Middlesbrough, who are nine places and 21 points behind United.