Craig Fleming says Southampton’s youngsters could hold their heads high, despite being knocked out of the FA Youth Cup by Manchester City.
City progressed to the last eight of the competition thanks to a 4-0 win at Academy Stadium, with Saints unable to capitalise on three good chances early in the game.
After Phil Foden opened the scoring midway through the first half, life became tough for Saints, but Fleming was proud of his players’ efforts.
“Overall it’s perhaps a case of ‘what if?’, because it was evenly matched in the first 30 minutes and we had a couple of good chances,” Fleming said.
“The game changed within a couple of minutes and then it’s an uphill task after that. The players were under the cosh, playing against a very, very good team.
“They battled hard, as they always do, but it was a hard night. That said, it’s great for their development.
“They now know what it’s like to come up against a team at the very top level, and quite a lot of them came out with honour against very good opposition.”
The defeat brings to an end a positive run in the competition for Saints, with Fleming adding his players will have gained plenty from their experiences.
“Throughout the whole competition the boys have given everything. Obviously the highlight being Manchester United, but they’ve played against different styles and done well,” he added.
“We’ve won at Old Trafford, played a very different type of game at Wigan and come up against one of the best teams I’ve seen at this level, so it’s been a terrific experience.”