Date: 19th October 2006 at 9:31pm
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It seems United’s future is in safe hands after a new-looking reserve side destroyed Wigan Athletic to extend their lead at the top of FA Premier Reserves League North.

Not many players remained from last season’s Treble-winning team: Giuseppe Rossi, Chris Eagles, Gerard Pique, Lee Martin, Phil Bardsley, Frazier Campbell and Johnny Evans are all out on loan and skipper Markus Neumayr was released at the end of last campaign. Brian McClair succeeded Eric Meulensteen at the helm as the latter left for Bröndby this summer. ‘Choccy’ fielded a young United team tonight against an experienced Wigan side at Ewen Fields.

The Latics were entitled to feel confident: the McCulloch-Todorov strikeforce certainly looked good for this level and with Andreas Johansson also in the team they had advantage in terms of experience. But they somehow forgot to inform Michael Barnes and Aaron Burns about it and that proved to be a fatal mistake.

Only nine minutes were played when United went in front. Barnes made an electrifying run on the left, the defenders simply weren’t able to cope with his pace as he got to the byline, crossed the ball which found Webster who was unfortunate enough to deflect it into the net. It set the tide of the evening and soon it was all United. It was inevitable we were going to see something really special sooner or later and Burns duly provided what we expected. He took Ritchie Jones’ pass then fired the ball into the far corner with devastating power and perfect accuracy from the edge of the box. Todorov soon pulled one back but Michael Barnes left the defenders stranded once again with a burst of speed and rounded the keeper to score the Reds’ third goal of the night.

The half-time whistle must have been a relief for poor Latics but as soon as the action restarted they were put firmly on back foot. Sixty seconds into the second half and it was 4-1: the irresistible Barnes sprinted forward again on the left with a helpless defender trailing behind… 18-year-old Michael’s low cross found Burns in the box and the little striker tapped the ball into the net. Barnes and Burns then crowned their mesmerising displays with the fifth and final United goal: blond Michael attacked the Wigan defence after Ritchie Jones’ pass then he laid a fine ball (remember, it was only his 10th game at Reserve level…) into the path of Burns who slotted it past the helpless keeper and completed his hat-trick. Johansson managed to tighten the scoreline 5-2 but it did not matter: the Reserves simply brushed aside Wigan with a thoroughly attack-minded performance which extended their lead to three points ahead of arch-rivals Manchester City.

United: Heaton – Gray, Rose, Lea, Shawcross – R Jones, Lee, D Jones, Marsh – Burns, Barnes.

On as sub: Cathcart, Hewson, Fagan

Watched it on the bench: Amos