Match Report: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United

If that win at the Emirates was a bit strange. and it was, then this one was thoroughly bizarre. United had three attempts on goal and scored with two of them and a Southampton side that dominated possession for much of the first half came away with nothing. That they did was down partly to a remarkable never-say-die spirit within the United side, a bit of luck, a couple of Van Persie goals and a masterful personnel change from Van Gaal before half-time.

After some early sparring, United capitalised on a bad defensive error to take what proved to be a crucial lead. Rooney was beaten to the ball by Fonte, whose attempted back pass to his keeper fell woefully short and Van Persie stole in to slide the ball under Forster’s flailing body. Despite the early goal, Southampton were already serving notice that this would be a game in which United’s already thin defensive resources would be stretched, which made the sight of Chris Smalling limping off the field all the more unwelcome. Yet another defensive injury meant an earlier than expected return for Jonny Evans in a back three that had already looked vulnerable but now became decidedly shaky as first Rojo and then McNair were guilty of poor errors, the latter coming close to leading to a Southampton goal. Minutes later De Gea had to smother a shot from outside the area from Pelle.

A breakthrough seemed inevitable and it came after Fellaini gave away the ball with a careless square pass in the middle of the field. The home side surged forward in numbers and, when the ball fell to Pelle in the area, this time the striker gave De Gea no chance. Long had a chance to make it two soon after but blazed over when McNair hooked the ball into his path.

United were frankly ragged at this point and Van Gaal responded by making vital change, taking off McNair – whose inexperience was being ruthlessly exposed by Southampton’s intelligent forward play – and bringing on Herrera to allow Carrick to add his experience in defence. While it didn’t lead to United looking at all convincing, it led to an improvement in composure that made the second half a more even contest.

Another lapse from Rojo allowed Pelle a glimpse of goal again, but this time he hit his shot over the bar. At the other end, one of several fizzing crosses from Young caused panic in the Southampton defence and Young was almost instantly called into action at the other end when he steered a vicious cross from Tadic away from danger.

With Herrera adding movement to the United midfield and the defence looking more secure, United made the most of another rare chance. Ironically Rooney was complaining about play being stopped when United looked in a position to benefit from advantage being played, but there were no complaints when his free kick found Van Persie at the far post and he side-footed the ball expertly past Forster to give the Reds a lead that had not long before looked very unlikely.

Southampton came back in numbers and De Gea made an excellent save to turn away Pelle’s low shot from the left. Clyne’s shot from twenty yards was a yard right of the keeper’s left post and soon after a long-range shot from Bertrand was deflected wide. It was ultimately the best they could offer and, as the home side trooped off the pitch in an understandably despondent mood, United celebrated an unlikely fifth win on the trot and a position in the top three for the first time since we won the league. It will be said, and rightly, that United rode their luck, but while performances like this will certainly not be enough every week, part of me very much likes the look of a side who don’t seem to know when they’re beaten and, for now, three points will do nicely.

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4 Comments

  1. Three great moments in the game, the two goals and the final whistle. The rest of it was a horror show.Van Gaal sets the team up as if United are the underdogs scared of the opposition. No wonder the players confidence is fragile.

    Some will say that three points is all that matters and we are up to third. Short term, perhaps fair enough. But this is not the way forward. A back six with Fellaini and Mata in centre-midfield. Spare me.

    Bringing on Herrera in place of one of the three centrebacks was not “a masterful personnel change”. It should have been like that from the kick off.

  2. Have to agree with Gary Neville,United were awful.All the back passing again.When Evans came on he gave it a go and made a couple of runs forward,Fellaini was most quilty of all the negative passing.OK any team deserves some luck now and again.What happened to the confidence.why the no balls blues,just looked like there was a boobyprise for how many back passes you make.Rooney had a bad night but still got the touch.Well Liverpool next,.lets hope VG goes for an attacking side,why was Falcao on the bench?

  3. I do n,t get this three at the back, the extra man is needed in midfield not there. The three end up with plenty of ball but nowhere to play it. The two in midfield wait for the ball like sitting ducks. When one is fellaini who can,t retain the ball under pressure you are in trouble. The three eventually start dwelling on the ball with nowhere to play it and end up getting caught , nervy chaos follows. Then we have the wingbacks who try to defend but give nothing going forward. Neither can beat a man and get a cross in , young would n,t try to as he has no left foot, has to stop and turn inside. And please no more cross field passes .

  4. It was an ugly game to watch. Much better with Carrick at the back. I really don’t like the back three and think the Reds look much better in a 4-4-2. Good to see RVP getting back into things, though.

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