Barclays Premier League Under-21s Division 1
Manchester United vs. Southampton
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
Date: Monday, 18 January 2016
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Adnan Januzaj, making his first appearance since returning from his loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, bookended the scoring, his first coming on the stroke of half-time.
Striker Will Keane also bagged a brace; the second via a penalty, on what was a good night and comfortable win over Martin Hunter’s side.
Early on, Keane headed over from Januzaj’s cross, as Ryan Seager’s turn and shot inside the area at the other end saw his attempt drag wide.
Andreas Pereira brought down Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s header with a neat touch before lifting the ball into Keane, who also lifted the ball, this time over the head of Alfie Jones, before volleying a left-footed strike just wide.
Captain James Weir played in the overlapping Pereira, whose low pass was met by Januzaj, only for Paulo Gazzaniga to deny the Belgian from close range with a fine save.
After taking a whack to the head, Pereira curled an effort just over, before Jake Hesketh fired wide for Southampton.
Two full-backs combined for the Saints, as Bevis Mugabi headed against the crossbar from Josh Debayo’s corner, with Dominic Gape’s attempt from distance falling over the bar.
As half-time approached, Keane found Januzaj in close proximity, and the latter shifted the ball onto his favoured left foot, and drilled his shot into the bottom right-hand corner to give United the lead heading into the break.
The intent from United was clear from the off after the break, with Pereira at the heart of most things, seeing a shot held then one fall wide.
Then came the second goal, as Fosu-Mensah played the ball into the feet of Januzaj, who spread the play out to Guillermo Varela on the right, who took one touch to set, looked up, and whipped in a cross, which Keane was left unmarked to head home.
Pereira then a saw a free-kick strike the wall, with Matty Willock’s effort on the rebound parried, with the ball only cleared as far as the former after another cross in the same passage of play, with the number 10 lifting the ball over Sam Gallagher, before his left-footed attempt was tipped over the bar by Gazzaniga.
Fosu-Mensah was off target from Januzaj’s lay, before United finished the game off with just over 20 minutes remaining.
It was Januzaj who was brought down by Jack Stephens, and Keane followed on from his double spot-kick success at Reading last week, by firing the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner.
The two goalscorers then combined for United’s fourth, with Keane doing brilliantly to shrug off Stephens, before pulling the ball back to Januzaj, who placed a first time finish into the bottom corner.
Right-back Mugabi produced Southampton’s first shot on target, with Sergio Romero holding the attempt with ease.
Full-time arrived with another outstanding display at this level for Warren Joyce’s side, who stretch their winning run to five games, scoring 19 goals in the process.
Important minutes for many players on the fringes of the first team, with first team coach Albert Stuivenberg in attendance watching on.
The gap to Sunderland closes to six points, with three games in hand, and the two meet at the same venue next Monday, with a 7pm kick-off time.
Manchester United: Romero; Varela, Williams, McNair, Love; Fosu-Mensah (Riley 73), Willock; Weir, A. Pereira, Januzaj (El Fitouri 81); Keane.
Subs: Riley, J. Pereira, Rashford, Redmond, El Fitouri.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Southampton: Gazzaniga; Mugabi, Stephens, Jones, Debayo; Gape, Hesketh, Reed; Gallagher, Seager, Sims.
Subs: Olomola, Lewis, Little, Wilkin, Cook.
Manager: Martin Hunter