Manchester United's under-23 side are lacking attacking potency, and it showed as they were comfortably beaten by Southampton at St. Mary's on Monday evening.
Midfielder James Weir was, like last week against Leicester City, deployed as a lone striker for the visitors, but to little effect. Despite Marcus Rashford not playing, the English striker is seen as a first team player now and will not drop down back into the academy sides.
Weir, United captain, missed two golden opportunities in the first half to send United in front. The second, in particular, was a shocking miss, shooting wide from just six-yards out after Saints goalkeeper Harry Lewis had dropped the ball.
Sims gives Saints lead
While United's youngsters had chances in the first half, they still looked second-best. After half-time, that proved very true. Josh Sims gave Southampton the lead after a weak header from 18-year-old centre-back Axel Tuanzebe, who has been highly praised by Jose Mourinho. Sims pounced on the loose ball, volleying it viciously. Dean Henderson looked set to parry the strike until it struck left-back Joe Riley and wrongfooted the United goalkeeper.
It wasn't long until Jack Stephens, returning to youth football from two loan moves last season in the Football League, doubled the Saints' lead. Again, it was poor defending from Manchester United. An inswinging corner could have been headed clear but evaded two United players, both jumping and missing. Stephens wasn't going to let them get away with such a mistake, and powerfully headed downwards past Henderson.
United unable to find drive to comeback
Warren Joyce's United, champions in three of the last four years, didn't seem to have the ability to respond in the fashion that made them title-winners. There was no sudden increase in urgency about their play, and that continued until the final whistle.
Josh Harrop and Matty Willock both created chances, the former with long shots and the latter with excellent runs storming from halfway line to penalty area. United still, though, missed a striker. Demetri Mitchell, who scored a sublime half-volley against Leicester last week, came on but wasn't put up front, instead on te wing as Weir stayed as a lone striker.
Southampton were good, but shouldn't have been allowed to see the game out with such ease. Tyreke Johnson impressed, having played a full 90 minutes only on Saturday for the under-18 side, he was in good form, continuing a good partnership with Olufela Olomola.