Manchester United v Southampton
Saturday, 30th December 2017
IBO Reporter : Spot51
There have been some dreadful matches in the Premier League this season; usually when a team from the Top 6 meets one from the lower reaches that "parks the bus". Until - or unless - the big team score an early goal, we are subjected to the most turgid dross masquerading as top-flight soccer.
Pleasingly, this was not such a game. It was by no means a classic and Saints were often obliged to defend in numbers; but they at least tried to mount attacks when they gained possession and, but for another superb save from De Gea, might have made off with all the points.
I was pleased to note Craig Pawson was officiating as he sent Mourinho off when the sides last met at St Mary's. Less pleasing was Bournemouth winning in their 1500 k.o. sending Saints down to 15th and a point above the drop zone. Any damage to our goal difference would see us drop into it.
Saints again shuffled the pack with starts for McCarthy, McQueen, JWP and Tadic. Shane Long was once more the lone striker. Luke Shaw was again left back for United and Lingard's recent scoring run saw him start centrally behind Lukaku.
Saints began on the front foot and this positive start ended when Long fouled Matic so United could clear. On 4m Saints were cut open by the first of many cross-field passes by Pogba. He found Mata whose cross was met by Lukaku but, thankfully, his header went over the bar.
Saints kept trying to get forward with both Tadic and Boufal looking dangerous. Luke Shaw was not being given an easy night by his former employers. Boufal created a good chance when he got to the by-line and dragged the ball back to JWP. His low shot was turned away by De Gea – hitting the shins of Boufal who was clearly offside.
On 8m there was a nasty clash of heads as Lukaku and Hoedt challenged for the ball. Both looked dazed but the big Belgian was in trouble, collapsing to the ground with concussion. There was a 6-minute delay as the United medics attended to him. He was then stretchered off to be replaced by Rashford.
United kept the ball well until Shaw's cross was headed out by McQ. First PEH, then Maya headed clear sending Long charging upfield where he was crudely stopped by Lindelhof. JWP's shot from the free kick was punched away by De Gea. Saints won consecutive corners and from the second United broke with 3v2. Fortunately, one of the two was PEH and his harrying of Mikhitarian caused the Armenian to over-hit his cross.
Jones' pace was being tested by Long but the England man was doing just enough. One of his clearances was seized by JWP whose brilliant cross was met by Hoedt but his effort sailed wide. After 26m McCarthy had still not had to make a save as Saints' hard work kept United at bay.
Then PEH earned the first yellow for fouling Shaw and moments later McCarthy was obliged to collect a low shot by Mata and catch a Mikhitarian cross. At the other end a slack pass from Shaw almost played in Long but once again the Irishman was foiled by Jones. Then Young went down their right, McCarthy got under the cross but so did Rashford and the ball went safely out.
Despite PEH continuing to break up United moves, they got the ball into our box and Lingard played it up onto Yoshida's arm but Craig Pawson was having none of it. United regularly get penalties for less at OT and, naturally, this incident was the sole subject of Mourinho's post-match whining.
Saints continued to thwart United and when they are reduced to long range Matic efforts that soar into the stand you know the plan is working. Despite winning corners United could not engineer a decent chance and travelling Saints fans must have enjoyed seeing McCarthy coming out to catch crosses.
Pogba continued to find Mikhitarian with long passes but his crosses were usually too long. When he eventually found the head of Lingard the ball went wide. In the 6m added (for Lukaku's injury) Matic drew a save from McCarthy, Jones continued to thwart Long and Lingard's shot missed the target. HT 0-0.
United attacked from the restart but Saints cleared and won a couple of corners. Rashford cleared the second, sending his team swarming towards our goal They were halted by a fantastic tackle by McQueen that stopped their advance.
On 50m Long at last got the better of Jones, running onto JWP's cut back, and hitting a low drive on target. De Gea stuck out a leg and deflected the ball over the bar. Saints then won another brace of corners and (I think) while the second was in the air, Young elbowed Tadic in the ribs. The ref missed this but BT's cameras did not. Young subsequently received a 3 match ban: a lot of good that does Saints!
United then enjoyed greater possession but Saints were quick to counter. Jones's speed was regularly tested as we sought out the runs of Long but the England defender did well to keep him quiet. United then won a pair of corners but Saints were again saved by McCarthy catching the cross.
Boufal was yellow carded for 2 fouls on Young in as many minutes. Meanwhile McCarthy saved from Mikhitarian and Saints survived another corner. On the hour, Lingard was booked for a foul on Stephens and another sweet cross-field by Pogba set up another awful cross by Mikhitarian.
Following a foul on Boufal, JWP sent over another cross which De Gea punched clear: only to be clattered by the retreating Jones. The keeper was able to continue. Then United replaced Mikhitarian with Martial whose first contribution was a clear dive on the edge of our box that the Ref bought. Thankfully Young's shot deflected off the wall and as the resulting corner came in Mata grabbed a handful of Maya's shirt and play was stopped. Saints survived a further corner and another long-range drive by Matic that sailed over the bar.
The game continued end to end. Maya made a superb interception to foil United, the Boufal's cross was headed over by Tadic. On 72m Matic was carded for his foul on PEH. Saints fans could be heard singing as Tadic won another corner. There was some lovely interplay between the Serb and JWP before Romeu ran the ball out of play.
Another decent Saints move saw Long and Boufal set up Tadic but the shot flew wide. United's next attack saw a shot charged down by McQueen. Shaw then won a corner but Martial hit it behind for a goal kick. On 79m Gabbi replaced the hard-working Long and, moments later, JWP was carded for kicking Lingard.
Boufal, already on a yellow, took a risk by chasing then fouling Young near the edge of our box. Young's cross was knocked goal-wards, beating McCarthy's dive before being stabbed home by Pogba. The offside flag cancelled out the goal but much debate followed about whether the original effort might have gone in anyway. So, tough-shit United!
Lemina then replaced Tadic, before Lingard's pass towards Mata was collected by McCarthy. United were then forced to defend until Redmond came on for Boufal. A United breakaway was ended by PEH's superb tackle on Martial. Saints continued to move the ball well but possession was lost when Redmond fouled Pogba.
Gabbi got little change out of Lindelhof in the dying minutes but, up the other end, Lingard's shot was well blocked by Hoedt. Lingard was then thwarted by Stephens in the 3 added minutes. As United desperately tried to score Maya headed away a cross before blocking a final effort from Martial.
0-0 at the final whistle: Saints had won a creditable point. United were not firing on all cylinders but Saints had played solidly and with spirit: not something they've regularly been guilty of this season...
Man of the Match
BT gave it to Hoedt but I beg to differ – and the match stats back me up. Pierre Emile Højbjerg was the best player on the park by some distance and, if we are to shake off our current malaise, we need to build our side around this talented player.
1 de Gea
31 Matic - Booked 72'
14 Lingard - Booked 60'
22 Mkhitaryan (Martial 65')
9 R Lukaku (Rashford 14')
6 Hoedt - Booked 44'
23 Højbjerg - Booked 26'
16 Ward-Prowse - Booked 80'
11 Tadić (Lemina 82')
19 Boufal - Booked 58' (Redmond 85')
7 Long (Gabbiadini 80')
Manchester United 0
Referee : Craig Pawson
Attendance : 75,051
- Manchester United 55%
- Southampton 45%
- Manchester United 15
- Southampton 8
Shots on Target
- Manchester United 3
- Southampton 3
- Manchester United 10
- Southampton 7
- Manchester United 12
- Southampton 13