Arnau Puigmal and Alvaro Fernandez show Manchester United how to play with full-backs – Daniel Murphy


With all the exciting talents that have been added to Manchester United’s youth ranks over the summer, it might be easy to overlook some of the talented youngsters who were at the club at the start of the year, but Arnau Puigmal has clearly indicated that it would not. Set aside shiny new toys anytime you want in the thrilling 5-2 Under-23 win at Brighton. The 19-year-old all-rounder has been at United since 2017 following his arrival from Espanyol but, although he was an unused substitute in the Europa League game in Astana, he has largely gone under the radar since then. That might be about to change with the way he’s started this season. He had already scored three goals in two games against Salford City and Arsenal U23, and his record has grown on the South Coat.

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Despite impressive results in the EFL Trophy, it was a difficult start to life in high level youth football for Neil Wood’s side, with several key players from their last-term promotion winning team having either gone on loan. , or promoted to senior rank. install.

The youngsters managed to secure their first win of the campaign last time out against Everton, but were helped by a senior presence in the squad with Brandon Williams, Marcos Rojo and new signing Facundo Pellistri all starting.

There was no such help here though, with six of the starting XI having started in the squad slipping to a 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the final four of the FA Youth Cup a week ago.

Still, there was no sign of a hangover as they started off brilliantly and took the lead after just nine minutes through the ever-impressive Hannibal.

It was show star Puigmal who seized the opportunity, however, as the Spaniard pinched the opponent’s ball before placing Hannibal who couldn’t miss a few yards as Brighton’s back line parted like the red sea.

Wood had his side lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and while this left them vulnerable on the flanks at times, it allowed Puigmal and summer arrival Alvaro Fernandez on the opposite flank to be an ever-present threat. .

It wasn’t long before United doubled their lead, although this time they received an even bigger helping hand. Brighton were trying to come back to the rear when goalkeeper Christian Walton was sold short by a bad pass – he was caught by Anthony Elanga who handed Shola Shoretire the simpler tap ins.

United face perhaps their most important game of the season so far when they face Everton on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under increasing pressure following disastrous performances in defeats against Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir this week, and languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table.

The Reds desperately need a positive result to enter the international break, but they face an Everton side that started the season with all the guns, rejuvenated under Carlo Ancelotti.

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Brighton had short periods of promise after every kick-off, but United would soon be three goals for good thanks to Mark Helm.

It was Puigmal who kicked off by giving the ball to Elanga, who played a quick back and forth with Hannibal before spotting a marauding Puigmal who had continued his run to the right. The No.7 wasn’t wrong with his perfect pass, which encountered Helm as he came into the box to shoot in a third.

Brighton had a goal disallowed for offside early in the second half, but United ignored the warning as the Seagulls scored twice in double time to move to a goal from the visitors before the ‘hour.

It looked like the game was only going one way as Brighton continued to progress and United failed to reaffirm their previous dominance, but a forced change in formation worked a treat. Center-back Luca Ercolani had to leave due to injury and as a result Wood moved on to a full-back and United quickly had time to breathe.

This time it was Fernandez who was able to show off his attacking prowess from the full-back as he moved forward, cleverly using Elanga’s run as a lure to cut inside, then launching a fierce shot into the goal.

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The strike seemed to take the wind out of the Seagulls’ sails and United managed to take control of the finals. Hannibal kept advancing from the middle of the field at fashion opportunities and he was able to return the favor to Puigmal. As is more and more usual, the Frenchman pushed forward from the back before playing in a delicate deep ball, Puigmal slipped in to slide it under the keeper and into the far corner.

It was a goal that Puigmal fully deserved after a great performance. One in which he started as a right-back and claimed two assists before moving to defensive midfielder, making the team safer and scoring the scoresheet himself.

Hannibal will continue to steal applause with his dazzling ability and new signings from players like Barcelona and Real Madrid will spark excitement, but Puigmal will find his way onto the radars of more fans if he continues to play like this.


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