Manchester United 1 Southampton 1
United failed to secure three points for the third time in four home league games this season, allowing a spirited Southampton side to grab an 89th minute equalizer. While Southampton will feel their tenacity and hard work was justly rewarded, the Reds will rue the chances missed to put the game out of reach long before the crucial goal was conceded.
In truth, this was another performance in fits and starts from United, who took the lead with a Van Persie goal after 26 minutes, the forward latching onto a ball that rebounded to him after Boruc’s block had kept out Rooney’s shot. Rooney had been fed by exquisite through ball from Januzaj, who impressed in the first half and continues to look an excellent wide option, with his ability to go past his man, cross or pass from deep in evidence once again here. News that he had signed a contract will provide much consolation for United fans on another disappointing day.
United might have increased their lead when Rooney hit the bar shortly afterwards, although the signs were already apparent that Southampton, whose controlled passing was impressive at times, had enough quality to get back into the game. In the second half, they became more dominant, pressing United high up the field and forcing some ragged passing from the home team. Despite this, United still squandered chances to double their lead and went close when Van Persie’s header struck the bar and Januzaj’s excellent long-range shot was pushed aside by Boruc.
Southampton always had a threat in the second half, however, and got their late reward when Lovren scrambled the ball home from a corner to give them a share of the spoils. Apart from the points lost, United fans will again be concerned about a failure to control the game in the middle of the park, where Fellaini in particular appeared to want more time on the ball than the opposition were willing to allow him and where Carrick struggled to find the space to influence proceedings.
It could also be argued that the second half substitutions that brought on Welbeck for Fellaini and Smalling for Rooney disrupted the shape of the team, necessitating a move for Januzaj over to the right, where he looked far less productive, and breaking up the Jones-Evans partnership that had been stretched at times but looked fairly secure at the heart of the home defence. The fact remains, however, that even before these changes United looked still far from their best and, not for the first time this season, struggled to control a game against well-organised opponents.