Updated: Monday, 13th July 2020 @ 9:36pm

The United way: Red Devil's Under-21 boys show up David Moyes with last-gasp top-four spot clincher

The United way: Red Devil's Under-21 boys show up David Moyes with last-gasp top-four spot clincher

| By Richard Browne

David Moyes may have paid the price for not making the Premier League top-four this season – but Manchester United’s Under-21s secured just that last night.

There has been little of the never-say-die attitude from the first team since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but Warren Joyce’s U21s kept that United tradition alive with a crucial 3-2 win against Reading.

Having squandered a 1-0 lead, the youngsters back with a 93rd minute strike from 18-year-old centre-back Paddy McNair.

That goal ensures the Red Devils finished third in the division – with the champions to be decided via play-offs.

Current holders United will face second-placed Liverpool, while table-toppers Chelsea will play either Fulham or Manchester City.

City need a win at home against Aston Villa on Sunday to overtake the Londoners for fourth spot.

As for United, their play-off place came courtesy of an impressive run of form that has seen them lose only once since January.

However, despite an impressive 3-0 triumph over Aston Villa and a 1-0 win away to a strong Tottenham side, their top-four hopes were dealt a blow by Norwich last week.

James Weir scored twice for United, but two Norwich goals in the last 10 minutes of the match meant the visitors came away from Old Trafford with a point.

The Red Devils looked set for more disappointment at Reading when the hosts took a 2-1 lead with 10 minutes remaining.

But this time it was United with the late rally, Weir drawing them level before McNair struck in the final minute of stoppage time.

Regardless of the outcome of the play-offs, several players from the U21s have shown the potential to step up to the first-team next season.

Joyce’s team have played with the fluency and purpose absent from ex-boss Moyes’ stodgy style of play that ultimately played a part in his departure from Old Trafford

In the recent win over Aston Villa, United’s young players interchanged positions within a loose 4-3-3 system to devastating effect.

Passing the ball with confidence, keeping the ball on the ground wherever possible and scoring three outstanding goals through James Wilson, Joe Rothwell and right-wing livewire Saidy Janko.

The flair players were balanced out by the hard-working and hard-tackling Ben Pearson and Charni Ekangamene.

The latter, who has represented Belgium at U-16 and U-17 levels, is highly adaptable and effective in central defence or central midfield.

United are believed to eyeing a summer signing spree to remodel their beleaguered squad but the form of the youngsters may mean the new manager would do well to look at what is available in-house first.

If the new man sees youth players as vital to a club’s success, as Ferguson did, then the likes of Ekangamene, Janko and Jesse Lingard bolstering the first team next year – as whizkid Adnan Januzaj has done this season.

They are, however, not finished with this season yet, and retaining the U21 Premier League title would be a very welcome relief for a club which has endured the most tumultuous of seasons.