City u18s kicked off their pre-season programme in style as they triumphed 6-0 over NK Novigrad under the golden Croatian sun.
Charlie Oliver, Manu Garcia and Zackarias Faour were all on the scoresheet as the boy Blues got their preparations for the new campaign off to the best possible start.
One of Jason Wilcox’s final instructions to his young squad was to remember there is no such thing as a friendly, and the commitment and desire shown by the boys in Blue indicated their thoughts echoed their coach’s words.
As temperatures reached the mid 30s, it was necessary to play three periods of 30 minutes rather than the traditional 45 minute halves to ensure regular water breaks for players more used to the grey skies of Manchester.
Consistently high performances from the whole squad in this week’s training sessions gave Wilcox plenty to think about when it came to his starting XI.
Tosin Adarabioyo skippered the young side, partnered at centre back by Charlie Oliver. Rodney Kongolo made his City debut in midfield alongside Marcus Wood, while Isaac Buckley spearheaded a very fluid front three that also included David Brooks and Callum Bullock.
As is the nature of pre-season friendlies, there were plenty of substitutions as the boss gave as many as possible the chance to impress and get a chance to improve their fitness with early match action.
The contest took some time to spark, as both sides struggled to fashion clear cut scoring opportunities in the opening 30 minutes.
Bullock had a free kick saved and later did well on the right hand side but his low, drilled cross was expertly fielded by the opposition, while at the other end Kjetil Haug made a super stop when one on one with the onrunning striker to ensure the scores remained level at the first break.
Play continued in the same vein after the restart, but the flow was disrupted somewhat on 45 minutes as the hosts made mass changes, and City were quick to seize the advantage.
A David Brooks corner evaded everyone at the first opportunity, but confusion reigned as the ball was fired back in and Oliver was quickest to react, tucking the ball home under the keeper from close range to break the deadlock.
The arrival of sub Manu Garcia would prove crucial, and he made his first contribution just before the hour mark, seizing penalty-taking responsibilities when Bullock was upended in the 18 yard box and stroking the ball confidently into the corner after sending the keeper the wrong way.
Already catching the eye of Youtube viewers, the Spaniard doubled his tally just minutes after the second break with another special piece of skill to leave the last defender bewildered and find the net to complete a beautiful move.
He nearly had his hattrick after some excellent work from Faour on the right hand side, but this time could only fire wide much to the agony of the thrilled spectators packing the mini stand to see City’s young starlets.
It was four after 70 minutes courtesy of a well-placed low shot from a trialist, and the game had long since been over as a contest when the same forward smashed the ball against the cross bar only for it to bounce over the line off the despairing opposition goalkeeper.
City were rampant, with the attacking tempo and fluidity a joy to watch as the boys in Blue tore the opposition apart in the final half hour. Zackarias Faour added some gloss to an already thumping victory when he stroked home the sixth from the vicinity of the penalty spot to complete the rout.
A fantastic first run out showcased the quality that runs through this new u18s squad, and really set the tone for the rest of pre-season ahead of the next challenge on Tuesday.
CITY: Kjetil Haug, Assiana, Wassi, Oliver, Adarabioyo (Humphries 45), Kongolo (Corfe 76), Brooks (Nemane 60), Wood (Garcia 56), Trialist, Bullock, Buckley (Faour 60).
Match highlights and reaction to follow...