Hello and welcome to our live blog for Manchester United’s final Under-21 home game of the season against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.
Warren Joyce’s side continue their hunt for the Under-21 Premier League title and with three games in hand on leaders Sunderland, a win means Reds can continue their charge to a second consecutive Under-21 title.
Wayne Rooney’s also expected to make his return from injury for the Under-21s tonight, so it promises to be a good encounter against Boro, who are languishing near the bottom of the Under-21 table.
The football on show tonight may have been distinctly average, but Louis van Gaal will be pleased with Wayne Rooney coming through an hour on the pitch unscathed. Phil Jones also completed 90 minutes tonight, and it won’t be surprising if both men are on the bench against West Ham on Wednesday.
Thanks for joining us for our coverage tonight, we’ll see you soon.
FULL TIME: UNITED U21s 1-0 MIDDLESBROUGH U21s
Paddy McNair’s goal brings the Under-21s to within two points of the Premier League title, as Sunderland have lost 3-1 to Tottenham tonight.
A win for the Under-21s next week against Spurs in North London will seal consecutive titles for Warren Joyce’s men.
87′ – PEREIRA HITS THE CROSSBAR!
The Brazilian is set up after a barnstorming run by Tuanzebe, and the curler thunders off the crossbar. Would have been a spectacular goal.
Elsewhere in the Under-21 Premier League tonight, leaders Sunderland are losing 2-1 to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
If results stay as they are, United will only need two points from their final three games to retain the title!
67′ – GOAL FOR UNITED! PADDY MCNAIR!
United finally break through. Pereira delivers a looping cross from the right and McNair, running from deep, picks up the ball and cooly smashes it past the Boro keeper.
65′ – Good build-up from United sees Love hit a fierce shot straight into the Boro keeper’s midriff. Either side of the keeper there and it could well have been a goal.
61′ – Rooney’s night is done. He comes off for another injury returnee in Tuanzebe.
All in all, a useful but quiet night for the first-team captain.
Pereira, who’s been given the captain’s armband after Weir came off at half-time, has looked good at the start of this second half. Just needs to apply himself and work back into first-team contention now.
55′ – A lovely ball by Pereira into the Boro area, but Redmond just can’t quite get his leg on the end of that cross.
53′ – Borthwick-Jackson’s been fouled on the edge of the area – could this be Rooney’s chance for a goal?
He takes the resulting free-kick…and it’s over the bar.
MUTV have given an update on both Rothwell and Weir, saying that Rothwell is being assessed in the dressing room while Weir’s been taken off as a precaution after taking a kick to the knee in the first-half.
46′ – We’re underway for the second half, and Pereira has the first shot of the half for United – a low effort that’s saved by Fryer.
The teams are back out for the second half, with United making a surprise change.
James Weir, one of United’s better performers, comes off for Sadiq El Fitouri.
United fans have also not been impressed with the challenge that forced Rothwell off:
There's no excuse for allowing that type of tackle in the game. He tried to seriously injure Rothwell. The ball was well gone #mufcu21
— GirlOnUtd (@GirlOnUtd) April 11, 2016
That Rothwell challenge makes me wanna throw up
— Ollie Quigley (@OllieQuigley) April 11, 2016
Reaction to the game so far, with Rooney getting praise for his performance:
For those not watching the u21 math, you're lucky. Awful match, Rooney however, has been involved in all the positives for United.#MUFC
— MUFC | IS | LIFE (@hassan_footyfan) April 11, 2016
Wayne Rooney's looked bright enough on his return from injury in the opening 45 minutes here. Phil Jones much improved too #mufc
— Liam Blackburn (@liamblackburn) April 11, 2016
Rooney has had some nice touches & put himself about well so far but sadly the u21's have been playing like the 1st team no chances created
— Man Utd News (@RooVanMataZaj) April 11, 2016
It’s been a pretty even half of football at Old Trafford. United have had more of the ball but chances have been few and far between for both sides.
As for Rooney, he’s had a couple of good touches and linked up well with James Weir, but otherwise it’s been pretty quiet return for the 30-year-old, who’s barely touched the ball in the six-yard box.
48′ – Devonte Redmond goes for a curler to end the half, but it’s comfortably held by the Boro keeper.
HALF-TIME: United U21s 0-0 Middlesbrough U21s
46′ – United press to try and end this first-half well, but Paddy McNair skies a shot over from range.
Three minutes of added time to end the first-half at Old Trafford.
Rooney watch – He has a go from 25 yards out, but the shot’s ballooned into the Scoreboard End.
Not his finest effort, he’ll happily admit.
37′ – Rothwell’s coming off – looks like he hasn’t shaken off the knock suffered during that awful challenge. Andreas Pereira comes on for him.
34′ – An awful challenge by Boro captain Jonathan Burn on Rothwell on the edge of the area, but no foul or card given. Rothwell receiving treatment on the pitch.
29′ – Chance for United as Weir and Rooney link-up in the Boro penalty area, and the Under-21 captain’s effort is blocked out for a corner.
Rooney watch – He’s hasn’t been involved as much as he would have liked so far, with United having lots of the ball but creating little – much like the first-team for much of this season.
As I type this, Borthwick-Jackson comes across from left-back to block a Jakupovic effort.
23′ – Weir with United’s most dangerous effort so far from just outside the box, and it’s firmly pushed away by Boro keeper Fryer.
Most of the first-team staff is at Old Trafford tonight (Ryan Giggs, Frans Hoek and Albert Stuivenberg) to watch this match, as well as Academy director Nicky Butt.
15′ – Rooney’s first shot at goal is an audacious one, trying to lob the Middlesbrough keeper from some distance, but it’s tame and easily dealt with by Joe Fryer.
12′ – Chance for Middlesbrough! Arnel Jakupovic nicks the ball from Ro-Shaun Williams, but his shot is tame and it’s toed away by Sam Johnstone in the United goal.
Rooney watch – He’s only had one touch so far – and it was almost a misplaced pass.
Meanwhile, Love has the first shot for United, but it’s straight into the midriff of a Middlesbrough defender.
6′ – It’s been a lively start for United so far – plenty of possession. Joe Rothwell especially looking to dictate the tempo of the game in that number ten role.
We’re underway here at Old Trafford – Rooney and Donald Love kick-off the game for United.
The teams are out at Old Trafford – and Louis van Gaal is at the Theatre of Dreams to monitor his captain’s comeback from injury.
Warren Joyce has been speaking to MUTV before the game, here’s what he’s had to say:
It’s a good experience for the lads to play with Wazza [Rooney], and at Old Trafford as well, to be on the pitch with him, so they’re all looking forward to the game.
We’ve been in this situation [challenging for the title] for the past six or seven years, and part of the development is trying to develop a winning mentality, and so we’re really fortunate to be part of the title shake-up again. Tonight, we need to put on a good display, dominate the game and score a lot of goals.
Less than 30 minutes to kick-off now, and here’s Under-21 captain James Weir speaking to the Manchester Evening News about the great atmosphere at Academy level this season:
It has been a different season with so many players getting chances in the first team. A lot of our players have moved up from the Under 21s. A lot of us have had chances.
That is a great incentive for all of us. It is what you need. To see mates you’ve grown up with getting opportunities spurs everybody on and lifts the atmosphere.
We all now that at Manchester United you will get chances but to see it actually happening is great.
Pereira’s presence on the bench has not gone down well with some United fans:
Rooney starts for the U21s while Pereira is on the bench. So much for the dutch fraud giving kids a chance.
— Mike (@MikeLUHG) April 11, 2016
Rooney starts, but pereira's on the bench.. What's the poor lad done?? https://t.co/rmSq49iDGi
— Andreas Pereira (@AndreasPereria0) April 11, 2016
@ManUtd Andreas Pereira can't even get into the reserves now! Watch him leave like Pogba
— Damien McEvoy (@McEvoyDamien) April 11, 2016
Axel Tuanzebe also makes his return to the Under-21s bench – the defender’s missed four months with an injury. Highly-rated at Carrington and by many United fans.
Phil Jones also starts for the Under-21s as he works his way back to match fitness, but surprisingly Andreas Pereira’s on the bench…
U21s: v Middlesbrough (H) substitutes – J. Pereira, El Fitouri, Poole, Tuanzebe, A. Pereira. The game is live on #MUTVHD from 18:30 BST.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 11, 2016
As we wait for the team news to be announced, here’s what Warren Joyce has been saying about the Under-21s season:
It’s good we’ve got a run-in. Whatever happens from now until the end of the year, it’s been a fantastic season with the amount of players we’ve got through to have a little taste of the first team.
You’ve got to be competing for trophies if you’re playing here and, at the minute, we’re still in with a shout of the league and we’re in two County Cup semi-finals. They are always the demands and we want to be in the mix all the time to win things.