U21 manager reflects on narrow defeat to UnitedManchester United Under-21s maintained their perfect record of home wins in 2015/16 with a 1-0 against Reading at Leigh Sports Village on Monday evening – but Royals U21 boss Martin Kuhl was pleased with the overall display that his team put in.
Reading were within the width of the post from opening the scoring through Andrija Novakovich in the first half, but the game’s only goal came just before the hour when the ball deflected into the net off the luckless Sean Long, after James Weir had steered a low cross against the near post.
“People always tell you that football is about results, but the performance of the team was very good,” said Kuhl. “We said before that if you took the badges off the shirts, you wouldn’t know which team was which. Our players more than matched them and did very well in their performance.
“United played with an aggressive attitude, because at Manchester United the mentality has to be aggressive – they play to win. We matched them physically and we played our style of football. They have got some good players, as you would expect them to have, but I thought our lads did very well.
“The biggest thing for me was that we didn’t take our chances. We needed a little bit more belief in our ability to score, and we’re probably disappointed with their goal as it was stoppable. We had 20 or so crosses and they had four; one of those four led to a goal and we didn’t get anything from ours.
“It was a good move when Andrija hit the post, but I thought the reaction after hitting the post was poor. That’s the difference between playing at the top level and not. That’s the mentality that we’re looking for – United’s players want to play in the Premier League, and we want our lads to play in the Premier League too.
“But the performance overall, and the attitude and the character from the lads, was very good.”
First-team boss Brian McDermott was in the stands to monitor the match, and visited the dressing room after the full-time whistle.
“Some of these players have played in the first team and haven’t let the first team down,” continued the Under-21 coach. “They’ve got a new manager now and they’ve got to impress the manager and show him that they’re better than those that are in the first team.
“Their progress at the moment is nice, but we’ve had two games against Manchester United and small margins or small mistakes have cost us in both games. The mentality and concentration needs to last for 90 minutes. But football-wise, and the physical, technical and tactical side, we more than held our own.”