Premier League 2
Arsenal 4 (Reine-Adelaide 19, Dragomir 60, Nketiah 84, 87) Manchester United 0
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood
Arsenal U23s produced an outstanding performance as they thrashed Manchester United 4-0 at home tonight, with Eddie Nketiah hitting a brace and new signing Konstantinos Mavropanos making a positive first impression on his debut.
There were an abundance of positives for Arsenal to take from this display against an underwhelming United side, with Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who opened the scoring, and Vlad Dragomir, who made it 2-0, both making a major impact.
Reiss Nelson was, unsurprisingly, at the very forefront of proceedings, providing two assists, while Ben Sheaf was excellent in defence and the midfield pairing of Josh Dasilva and Joe Willock managed to both harry United out of possession and also enable Arsenal to build up attacking momentum.
Arsenal were without Krystian Bieik, who is out with a hamstring problem, and Chuba Akpom, but still fielded a strong side, with Nketiah starting having been on the bench for the first-team against Bournemouth yesterday.
Subs: Smith Rowe (for Reine-Adelaide, 66). Not used: Virginia, T. Bola, Fortune, Gilmour.
Arsenal initially found United difficult to break down but Steve Gatting’s side were still dominant in the early stages and signalled their attacking intent when Joe Willock set an effort wide early on.
Reine-Adelaide has often been on the periphery of matches, but on this occasion he was in the thick of the action and played a precise through ball into the path of Nketiah, who saw his shot saved by Theo Richardson.
Soon Arsenal took the lead, with Reine-Adelaide opening the scoring with a fine finish as he was rewarded for his impressive start to the game.
Not satisfied with just the one goal, Reine-Adelaide immediately attempted to double his tally after being found by Nketiah but his effort was saved this time.
Reine-Adelaide then came close once more as he headed over from Osei-Tutu’s teasing cross and the pattern of the game was well and truly set as Arsenal laid siege to the United goal.
Matt Macey had to make a rare intervention at the other end to gather from a United free-kick but Arsenal were well in control and constantly looked to torment their opponents.
Nketiah was working extremely hard up front, frequently turning into space, and Arsenal performed cohesively as a unit.
At the back Mavropanos showed just why he has impressed in training. The Greek defender demonstrated his composure in possession, passing the ball with the elegance of a midfielder, while he used his strength well and was also dominant aerially.
Josh Bohui had an effort saved for United but Arsenal continued to cause problems at the other end with Dasilva shooting over.
Having been in control of proceedings in the first half, Arsenal made their dominance count with further goals in the second period.
Dragomir, deployed as a left wing-back, constantly found himself in acres of space and the skillful Romanian took great joy in frequently getting into dangerous attacking areas.
United almost equalised when an effort struck Dasilva and deflected wide, but Arsenal soon doubled their advantage.
It was Dragomir who found the net as he applied the finish to an intricate move and the 18-year-old has become a much more mature player this season.
Emile Smith Rowe then entered the fray in place of the excellent Reine-Adelaide, with Arsenal continuing to push forward in search of more goals.
Macey made a superb save as he tipped the ball over the crossbar but the majority of the action took place at the other end, with Nketiah proceeding to make it 3-0 with the goal of the night.
The sprightly forward turned sharply, then demonstrated his speed before finishing emphatically, with the United defence simply unable to cope with him.
Just three minutes later Nketiah got his second of the game, with Nelson teeing him up.
The striker had been determined to find the net all game and now, having hit a quickfirre brace, was eager to complete his hat-trick.
Nketiah almost did so in the closing stages but in truth Arsenal had already caused enough damage to a struggling United side who are in danger of relegation.
Arsenal are still four points adrift of Premier League 2 leaders Liverpool, but in terms of performances there was much to be pleased about with this display, with the whole team making an impact and some individuals – Nketiah, Nelson, Reine-Adelaide, Sheaf, Dragomir and Mavropanos – especially excelling.
Next up is a Premier League International Cup group stage game at home to Bayern Munich, but it will take something special to top this display.