With United having already sealed the U21 Premier League title, there wasn’t really much to play for at St. Mary’s this Monday afternoon, but Paddy McNair and Paulo Gazzaniga still gave the spectators some value for money.
Composed first half
Both sides had a half chance within the opening ten minutes, with McTominay having his effort saved by Gazzaniga at the one end, and Harrison Reid volleyeing a headed clearance wide not long after, but neither did actually look like scoring.
Joe Riley came closer than both when he tried to blast home a free-kick from outside the both, but the 24-year-old Argentine shotstopper Paulo Gazzaniga managed to parry it despite a slight deflection off the wall.
Gazzaniga was called into action by Devonte Redmond as well, when the Mancunian midfielder displayed superb technique to smash a volley on target, but the former Valencia youth player managed to get a glove on it, see it go off the post and wide.
The first half supassed in a calm fashion, and the closest to score the opener was Matt Targett, who tried to exploit a free-kick opportunity caused by Paddy McNair, but it didn’t yield more than a corner kick.
In other words, the game went to half-time with both sides being unable to break the deadlock, despite United had tested Paulo Gazzaniga on a few occasions.
The tent’s on fire!
Southampton, however, were not needing long to score the opener in the second half. Paddy McNair, who had put in a decent shift before the change of sides, failed to pick up Jake Hesketh, which forced Roshaun Williams out of position. That meant Hesketh could send Sam Gallagher through on goal, and the latter made no mistakes in his attempt to continue his sparkling run of form, with his fifth goal in five games.
United had the opportunity to bounce back almost immediately, as Phil Jones, who had found the way to the Saints box on the occasion of a free-kick, found Joe Riley, but the left winger skied it way over the bar on the near post.
Southampton having an extra gear
The Saints had a decent chance to extend the lead just after United’s 63rd-minute double substitution, as Harrison Reid laid a free-kick off to Matt Targett, but the left-back slightly overhit it, to see it go some distance off target.
The lead, however, was to be extended. Phil Jones wrestled his way to conceding a free-kick against Sam Gallagher, and the subsequent free-kick turned out costly. Matt Targett crossed it in, and Sam Johnstone knocked it into Paddy McNair, who could do nothing but be a victim of bad goalkeeping and see his name turn up on the scoresheet for the wrong reason.
Super-subs making (some) impact
Despite Southampton having a two-goal cushion, United never wanted to hand in the towel. The substitute Josh Harrop, who had returned from a hernia injury, single-handedly engineered a counter-attack, but his distant finish went wide.
It was his fellow substitute, Matty Willock, who was the only to make things count. Paddy McNair crossed it from the right, and Gazzaniga, the first half giant, somehow lost it carelessly into the feet of Willock, who toe-poked in United’s first goal of the game.
Gazzaniga ends terrific display
Despite Gazzaniga’s howler, he had no intention to leave the limelight – and he’s stay on for the right reasons this time. In the 89th minute of play, Devonte Redmond got some space on the left, curled it inch-perfectly for McNair, who must’ve thought he’d scored when he headed it powerfully towards the bottom corner – but Gazzaniga turned up with a magnificent save! And when Josh Harrop struck a volley neatly from close range short after, the Southampton turned up to parry it once again.
In other words, United were never able to recover from 2-0 down, in somewhat of a bizarre second half following a relatively uneventful opening 45 minutes.
This means there is only one fixture remaining this season, away at Chelsea next Friday.
Southampton U21s 1-0 Man United U21s | SFC: Gallagher 47, McNair o. g. 70 – MUFC: Willock 75
Southampton U21s: Gazzaniga – Gape, Gardos, Jones, Targett – Olomola, Reed, Little, Sims – Hesketh – Gallagher
Subs: Cook, Lewis, Johnson, N’Lundulu, Vokins
United U21s: Johnstone – Tuanzebe, Williams, Jones (Mitchell 77), Borthwick-Jackson – Varela (Willock 63), McNair, Poole (Harrop 63), Riley – Redmond – McTominay
Subs: Mitchell, Henderson, Harrop, Willock, Kehinde