Omar Rowe’s inventive use of the outside of his left boot handed Southampton the lead in their Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash as he drilled in the opener.
After taking advantage of some slack defending to score the first, Saints found themselves pegged back by a precise shot that was guided by Jesse Lingard into the top corner from 25 yards, before Larnell Cole settled matters with a low strike in the second half.
Saints enjoyed an encouraging start to proceedings but unfortunately failed to reap the benefits of that in the opening ten minutes.
Lloyd Isgrove brought the first attempt, charging inside through space in the centre of midfield before dragging a 25-yard shot marginally wide.
Jake Sinclair’s aiming was equally wayward, the winger seeing a pass deflected into his path in the box but his lob was rushed and bounced off-target.
The early onslaught was relentless as a minute later United found themselves frantically clearing from point-blank range after Sam Gallagher failed to make the desired contact with Matt Targett’s drilled cross.
After arguably being slightly unlucky not to be in the lead, Saints thankfully broke the deadlock on the quarter-hour mark, courtesy of ROWE.
United, in rather careless fashion, surrendered possession deep in their half, allowing Rowe to latch onto the ball in the box and drill it low and past Sam Johnstone with the outside of his foot.
The visitors could have found themselves chasing a two-goal deficit soon after when Jack Stephens was afforded the time and space to race forward and rifle a 35-yard shot, only to see it soar inches wide.
Johnstone was required to make a stunning save to rescue United in the 29th minute after more worrying defending from the Red Devils. They failed to clear the danger under intense pressure from Rowe, which saw the ball roll into space at the back post for Isgrove to slide in for a prod at point-blank range that the ‘keeper dramatically dived across to palm away.
After coming agonisingly close to a two-goal cushion, Saints found themselves back on terms through an excellent individual effort by LINGARD.
The forward burst through midfield before opening up his body for a 25-yard curler that he lifted into the far corner exquisitely.
Despite seeing the score levelled, Saints maintained a high level of pressure towards the end of the half, with Dominic Gape being gifted the most inviting chance as the break approached.
The central midfielder teed himself 30 yards from goal but hit the ball with too much venom as he slammed it just over the crossbar, ensuring the score was tied at the halfway mark.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U21s 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED U21s
Only five minutes passed in the second period before the next goal arrived – this time it was United who scored to completely overturn their deficit.
The ball was lifted over their backline for COLE to control and fire low across Cody Cropper and into the far corner.
Saints’ frustration was nearly compounded when Lingard saw his side-footed effort – destined for the corner – prevented in heroic fashion by Cropper.
The ball was pulled back for the attacker to sweep what could have been his second goal towards the target, only for Lingard to see Cropper throw himself across to parry it away.
A more positive moment in the second half for Saints was the return to competitive action for Sam McQueen, who replaced Sinclair and looked lively with less than half an hour remaining.
Saints had a very slight glimpse of goal with less than five minutes of normal time left when a Matt Young cross deflected to Harrison Reed in the far side of the box. Wary of the nearby United defenders lurking in very close proximity, the midfielder swiftly hit a shot that unfortunately crashed into the side-netting.
As Saints poured forward in the dying stages, a Targett cross was met by a solid Gallagher header from just inside the area that fizzed wide, ensuring the hosts were unable to prevent the Red Devils from securing all three points.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U21s 1-2 MANCHESTER UNITED U21s
Southampton XI: Cody Cropper (GK), Matt Young, Matt Targett, Dominic Gape, Jack Stephens (c), Jordan Turnbull, Lloyd Isgrove, Harrison Reed, Sam Gallagher, Jake Sinclair (Sam McQueen 63), Omar Rowe. Unused substitutes: Jason McCarthy, Joe Curtis, Corby Moore, Chris Johns.
Manchester United XI: Sam Johnstone (GK), Donald Love, Reece James, Charni Ekangemeni, Tom Thorpe (c), Tyler Blackett, Larnell Cole, Davide Petrucci, Will Keane (Joe Rothwell 89), Federico Macheda, Jesse Lingard. Unused substitutes: Pierluigi Gollini, Ben Pearson, Liam Grimshaw, James Weir.