Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait has challenged his players to improve their quality in possession after they were beaten 4-1 at league leaders Manchester United on Saturday.
The Blues would have gone top of the U18 Premier League Northern Division with victory at Carrington, but were comfortably beaten by a talented United outfit.
Mason Greenwood put the Reds ahead after 11 minutes, but the Toffees hit back through Ellis Simms just after the half-hour mark to make it 1-1. United re-established their lead almost immediately through Largie Ramazani, before James Garner made it 3-1 just before half-time. Greenwood got his second and United’s fourth on 72 minutes to round off the scoring.
“We didn’t get to grips with Man United from the beginning,” Tait explained. “A lot of the boys had an off-day.
“The lads have been magnificent this season, they’ve done everything we’ve asked. They’ve worked hard, they’ve carried game plans, and there have been really good individual performances.
“I think Saturday was just a game extra for us. We’ve had a tough game against Liverpool, and against Chelsea, and we just came up a little bit short on Saturday, which can happen with young players. The important thing is to not get too low over it – you move on.”
Tait is confident his squad have the mentality to hit straight back when they face Sunderland at USM Finch Farm on Saturday – the first of three home matches on the spin for the Blues.
“They move on quickly, young players – they’re probably more resilient than the adults!” he said. “The attitude’s great here.”
If the Toffees are to get back to winning ways though, Tait says his side must keep the ball better – starting in their clash with the Black Cats.
“We’ve got to get on the ball, we’ve got to play more football,” he said. “The last couple of games we haven’t played enough football and our technical players haven’t got on the ball and shown what they can do.
“But we’ve also got to work hard without the ball, and press whenever we can.”
Despite Saturday’s loss at United, the Blues are still only four points behind the Red Devils in the table – and have a game in hand.
Tait emphasised the Blues’ league position is a distant second in terms of his priorities – with player development the overarching goal – but believes his side can learn valuable lessons from Saturday’s defeat.
“It’s great that the lads are interested in it [league position], but I thought that a few of them were probably thinking about that on Saturday - thinking, ‘We’re playing top of the league here,” he said.
“But it’s not about that, it’s about the lads giving themselves the best chance to progress at this club as a player.
“If we’re up there, challenging at the top of the league, then we’ll embrace that. But we didn’t handle the challenge very well at the weekend, so that’s something we can learn from.”