Bali Mumba made his full debut for Sunderland U23s this evening at Old Trafford as the Mackems found themselves on the end of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United, leaving Elliott Dickman’s side right in amongst it down at the bottom with time running out to pull themselves clear of the drop zone.
In truth, Sunderland were never really in the game and some questionable tactics and decision making from the U23s manager led to United tearing strips off the young black cats from start to finish.
The defeat sees Sunderland remain second bottom in the Premier League 2 table, but reduces the gap between themselves and bottom side United to just one point with just two games left to play.
Manchester United U23s: O’Hara, Riley, R Williams, Borthwick-Jackson, O’Connor, Redmond, Hamilton, Chong, Gribbin, Boonen, Dearnley.
Subs: Richardson, Warren, Buffonge, Kehinde, Whelan.
Sunderland U23s: Stryjek, Gamble, Hume, Mumba, Taylor, Storey, Molyneux, Embleton, Shields, Connelly, Diamond.
Subs: Hickey, Talbot, Kimpioka, Bale, Wright.
Elliott Dickman handed a first start at U23s level to young prodigy Bali Mumba, who played in the centre of midfield alongside Elliot Embleton. Mumba is a sought after England international that plays in our U16s side but his talent is so immense that he’s been fast-tracked up a few age categories in a bid to aid his development.
There was also a place for U23s top scorer Luke Molyneux, who lined up on the right of midfield, with Polish stopper Max Stryjek preferred between the sticks to James Talbot.
Manchester United - lead by former Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia - selected a side containing occasional first-teamer Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Republic of Ireland U21 goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara.
With both sides battling against relegation it was all set up to be a fairly entertaining affair, played out in one of football’s most famous arenas - a sparsely-populated Old Trafford.
The game began in a rather slow, laboured fashion, with neither side really able to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the early stages.
The first chance didn’t come until the 18th minute, when Devante Redmond’s close-range strike was saved easily by Max Stryjek in the Sunderland goal.
That became the catalyst for Manchester United to ramp up their efforts, and they were rewarded after a bit of fortune in the 23rd minute with a goal from Tahith Chong.
After a long ball was launched forward, Owen Gamble botched his clearance and instead headed it backwards into the path of the Dutch winger, who finished well to put the Red Devils 1-0 up midway through the first half.
The home side continued to plough forward, and Stryjek had to be alert when clearing the danger on a number of occasions where the ball was loose around his 18-yard box.
Just before half time Manchester United got their second, and again it was Chong that was right in amongst it. Latching onto a well weighted pass he steamed past Owen Gamble and left the ball on a plate for Zach Dearnley, who finished well to double his side’s lead.
Sunderland were very poor in the first half and deserved to be behind, with some questionable defending and the quality of Chong on their left proving to be the difference between the two sides in the opening 45 minutes.
HT: MUFC U23s 2-0 Sunderland U23s
HALF TIME: #MUFC 2-0 #SAFCU23s. Sunderland have never really been in the game and the quality of Chong on the Manchester United left has been the difference, though with both goals he's been given a helping hand by our right back Owen Gamble.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) April 6, 2018
Sunderland made one change to their side at the break, with Benji Kimpioka coming on in place of Luke Molyneux ahead of the second 45 minutes, but it made little difference.
Indy Boonen made it three for the home side not long after the start of the half with a neat finish, before it was closely followed by a fantastic long-range strike by right-back Joe Riley to put them 4-0 up.
The pace of the game slowed right down after United got their fourth - and after Chong thankfully went off - and this allowed Bali Mumba to grow into the game a bit more, with the pressure off and with more space ahead of him to show what he could do.
The addition of Adam Bale to the Sunderland midfield was a case of too little, too late, and you have to wonder what the thinking was from Dickman when selecting his side this evening. With the plan clearly for Sunderland to sit off and soak up pressure from deep, why he felt it necessary to play with two in the middle was bewildering.
FT: MUFC U23s 4-0 Sunderland U23s
Max Stryjek, 7/10: Wasn’t at fault for any of the goals and definitely helped to keep the score down with his bravery and speed when we found ourselves in some tricky situations.
Denver Hume, 4/10: Struggled, unfortunately.
Brandon Taylor, 5/10: Picked up a knock early doors and struggled.
Alex Storey, 5/10: Not a great display from him.
Owen Gamble, 4/10: Made a big error for their first goal and then was battered by Chong down the wing for their second. Not a great showing for him but he’ll undoubtedly bounce back.
Elliot Embleton, 6/10: Pretty neat in possession but the gameplan of sitting off and soaking up pressure didn’t bring the best out of him.
Bali Mumba, 6/10: Tidy and worked hard. Not a bad debut.
Luke Molyneux, 5/10: Wasn’t really involved much but was brought off at half time as he was struggling with a knock. Hopefully it’s not too serious.
Lee Connelly, 5/10: Like Molyneux, he was very ineffective this evening.
Jack Diamond, 5/10: Had Sunderland’s best chance of the first half and shot wide when he perhaps should have passed it across the box to a teammate.
Connor Shields, 5/10: Tried to link up play from deep but with the rest of his team so far back it was hard for him to do anything from a goalscoring perspective.
(SUB) Benji Kimpioka, 6/10: He’s a real brute and works hard. Something very likable about him.
(SUB) Daniel Wright, 6/10: Good to see him back from injury.
(SUB) Adam Bale, 6/10: Was brought on to help shore up the midfield and keep the score down. Surprised he never started considering the plan was clearly for us to sit deep.
Roker Report’s Man of the Match: Max Stryjek.