The impressive aspects of Sunderland's goals against Manchester United U21s that will have pleased Lee Johnson

One of the most impressive aspects of Sunderland’s victory over Manchester United’s under-21 side in the Papa John’s Trophy was the way the Black Cats implemented the club’s new style.

While this was a first-team fixture for Lee Johnson’s side, the Sunderland boss, with the exception of Denver Hume, named a starting XI made up of players from his under-23 squad for the game at the Stadium of Light.

Johnson was in the dugout, alongside under-23 coaches Elliott Dickman and Michael Proctor, and will have been encouraged by what he saw.

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The message was the same as Sunderland tried to start attacks from the back and press from the front.

Lee Johnson vs Manchester United Under-21s.

More often than not, their tactics worked effectively as United were regularly pinned back inside their own half.

Sunderland’s first goal was created as the team pushed up the pitch unit. Centre-back Patrick Almond pressurised United forward Joe Hugill, who made a loose pass to send Will Harris through on goal (Figure One). When the striker’s shot was saved, Tyrese Dyce converted the opener.

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Almond also played a key part in the side’s second goal when he confidently stepped out of defence with the ball and released Ellis Taylor on the right (Figure Two). The winger’s cross was then headed home by Stephen Wearne to cap off a fine team goal.

Both Almond and fellow centre-back Oliver Younger, who looked a cut above on the night, demonstrated composure in possession and some aggressive defending as they backed up play and made some important interceptions.

Figure Two: Patrick Almond steps out of defence before releasing Ellis Taylor in the build-up to Sunderland's second goal.

As you’d expect, there were some occasions when Sunderland’s desire to press was unpicked, but United failed to capitalise.

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Charlie McNeil squandered a golden chance to put the young Red Devils 2-1 ahead when a simple ball over the top saw the forward run off the back of Almond (Figure Three). Thankfully for Sunderland, McNeil’s finish was tame and straight at goalkeeper Jacob Carney.

In truth, both sides were wasteful in the final third, yet Sunderland managed to find a bit more composure in front of goal.

What will most encourage Johnson is how those chances came about, with the Black Cats’ style of play filtering down to the under-23 set-up.

Figure Three: Charlie McNeil is sent through on goal before his tame shot is saved.
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