By Nathan Youd.
Manchester United’s U21s eased to a 1-0 victory over Southampton U21s on Tuesday night at Moss Lane.
The game was much more comfortable for United than the score line suggests as Southampton struggled to trouble Ben Amos all night.
United however will be scratching their heads at how they only managed to breach the Southampton defence just once in a game they should have put to bed before half-time.
Both teams were forced into an early change after a clash of heads between Marnick Vermijl and Callum Chambers. Both men left the field; Reece James came on for United, and Mugabi replaced Chambers for Saints. Both players required ten stitches between them.
United created all the opportunities in the opening twenty minutes, with Jesse Lingard hitting the post from substitute James’ smart cross.
Moments later, Larnell Cole found himself with time and space in the box, but his cross failed to find a red shirt and then Nick Powell couldn’t quite direct his pull back after evading the challenge of Cropper.
Nick Powell threatened again soon after with his vicious shot deflecting over the bar from 18 yards out for a corner.
From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Ryan Tunnicliffe who blazed over from six yards, spurning United’s best chance of the half.
On the half hour mark, United were indebted to Tom Thorpe who but an end to a neat bit of play between Isgrove and Moore, just before the latter had time to get his shot away.
A moment of class from Januzaj almost created a goal out of nothing for United. His turn of pace beat the defender, but Nick Powell couldn’t convert the cross.
Ben Amos was a spectator in a first half that United dominated without breaking the deadlock. The reds struggled to penetrate a disciplined Southampton defence as the first half ended goalless.
Half time: Manchester United U21s 0-0 Southampton U21s
It was no surprise when United took the lead after just nineteen seconds of the second half. Jesse Lingard drove in from the left hand side before steering the ball into the bottom corner. The goal was nothing more than the reds deserved.
Saints almost equalised five minutes later with their first real attack. Omar Rowe found space down the left hand side but Michele Fornasier averted the danger at the near post.
United almost doubled their lead on 55 minutes, Tom Thorpe’s header was somehow cleared off the line by Corby Moore and from the rebound Larnell Cole’s volley was cleared away.
The game drifted on without anything for either side to shout about, with United looking happy to soak up the Southampton pressure as the away side looked for an equaliser.
The ever-impressive Januzaj almost provided United’s second with 15 minutes to go. Again showing a great turn of pace, he fired the ball across goal but his cross somehow evaded everyone.
That was the last real chance of the relatively dull second half as United strolled to victory to cement their place in 2nd place behind Spurs in the table, who they entertain at the City of Salford Stadium on Monday.
Final Score: Manchester United U21s 1-0 Southampton U21s
Manchester United’s U21s starting XI: Amos; Vermijl, Thorpe, Fornasier, Veseli; Ekangamane, Cole, Tunnicliffe; Januzaj, Powell, Cole.