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Hannibal Mejbri makes his mark but Jamie Bynoe-Gittens makes the difference vs Manchester United in Youth League – Samuel Luckhurst

Jamie Bynoe-Gittens has trodden the same path as Jadon Sancho from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund and is also under the guidance of the same agent, Emeka Obasi. United might hope he also returns to the red side of Manchester.

Like Sancho, Bynoe-Gittens hails from London, sports the ‘7’ for Dortmund and operates from the flank. His 16th-minute goal on the breakaway was typical of Dortmund, their thread from first to youth team very much apparent. Bynoe-Gittens’ second was more individualistic but no less admirable. United centre-back Rhys Bennett was beaten by pace and the goalkeeper Radek Vitek by the power of the shot.

Obasi moved Bynoe-Gittens to Dortmund from City in 2020 to keep them sweet ahead of the inevitable departure of Sancho, whom United first tried to sign as a 17-year-old in 2017 and again 18 months ago. With Dortmund such a fading force they were relegated from the Champions League group stage to the Europa League and ejected from that last week by Rangers, Bynoe-Gittens’ promotion could be fast-tracked.

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United denied Bynoe-Gittens in normal time but not in the penalty shootout. Deliberately designated as Dortmund’s fifth taker, he struck nervelessly to secure a 3-1 shootout triumph. Charlie McNeill, Hannibal Mejbri and Noam Emeran’s failed from 12 yards.

Development is prioritised over success by United and they remain best in class at producing first-teamers in the UK. They are still starved of trophies at academy level and caressing silver at such a callow age cannot be downplayed. They have the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Wolves at Old Trafford next week.

Dortmund’s seven matches in the Youth League prior to their appearance at Leigh featured a whopping 33 goals in seven games. United will wonder how they put two past them. Two goals were disallowed and Alejandro Garnacho, who rose to the occasion with goals at Old Trafford in the Youth Cup wins over Leicester and Everton last month, spurned a presentable chance sprung by Hannibal Mejbri. It was apt the defender Bennett lashed in the equaliser in the 85th minute.

United will rue their failure to strike at 1-1 in the second-half. Dortmund were disrupted by the two interval changes and United were doubtless transformed by a dressing room pep talk. Silas Ostrzinski, the proactive Dortmund ‘keeper, was excellent in regulation time and the shootout.

Anthony Elanga, a scorer in the Youth League group stage against Atalanta, was in attendance along with Ralf Rangnick and his assistant Chris Armas, as were Darren Fletcher and Eric Ramsay, the former having recently defended the latter over United’s infamous set-piece record. Fletcher eschewed a screening of the Wayne Rooney premiere at Home cinema last month in favour of watching the academy beat Everton in the Youth Cup fifth round. He still made the after-party, enthusing about the teenagers’ performance.

United’s XI consisted of a Czech, three Spaniards, a Tunisian, a Welshman and four Mancunians, an appropriately multi-cultural line-up representative of the city. Zidane Iqbal and Mejbri, the former with Champions League minutes to his illustrious name, are full internationals, Charlie Savage debuted at the same time as Iqbal against Young Boys and Shola Shoretire was introduced to men’s football in the Europa League.

Iqbal’s composed run and pass found McNeill and his awareness to sell the defender a dummy was as impressive as his clinical finish. Most of the United players charged towards Iqbal. McNeill scored emphatically again, only to be denied by the linesman’s raised flag.

Mejbri, with the captain’s armband strapped to his bicep, was at times guilty of over-thinking or overplaying. After the restart, his decision-making was more decisive and effective. He has not tempered his tempestuousness and had to be halted by the referee from confronting the linesman over a handball not given. The replays showed it was handball.

After Bennett levelled, Mejbri was more measured, urging teammates to procure a winner. Only moments earlier he stood over a prone Dortmund player, enraged at what he deemed pretend agony. Mejbri was officially fouled three times and felled at least double. It is vital he channels the disappointment of his meek penalty as much as his imperious second-half performance.

Dortmund had the privilege of training at The Cliff on Monday and were backed by around half-a-dozen hardcore enthusiasts from Gelsenkirchen who had defied the absence of public transport surrounding Leigh Sports Village. They had underestimated the Manchester chill but were boisterous outside the turnstiles, clutching their beer. Inside, they showcased their word-perfect English by chanting ‘you’re s–t and you know you are’.

Bynoe-Gittens dedicated his first goal to them.

United: Vitek, Jurado, Bennett, Fish, Fernandez, Savage, Iqbal (Emeran), Mejbri, Shoretire (Hansen-Aaroen), Garnacho, McNeill

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