WED, 17 MAY 2017
Referee : Mike Dean
Attendance : 31,425
Manchester United 47%
Manchester United 11
Shots on Target
Manchester United 1
Manchester United 10
Saints v Manchester United
St.Mary’s - Wednesday, 17th May 2017
> This weeks penalty miss was by Gabbiadini
> The first half was poor, Tadić was worse
> Saints wake up in the second half. Boufal impressive
IBO Reporter : Spot51
Wednesday was a nasty day with gallons of rain dumped along the South Coast. I was therefore surprised just how good the St Mary’s pitch looked – and how well it played. Jose exuded an air of someone wishing he was somewhere else but had named a competitive side: certainly not the youth players we’d been told to expect – although 3 of them were on the bench.
Claude had rotated again (8 changes from Saturday) and Saints took the field with “SCOPE About Disability” emblazoned across their chests. They kicked off towards the Northam and enjoyed some early possession. They created the first chance on 2m when Tadić found Redmond. His shot was blocked but rebounded to Targett who fired over.
Saints were passing nicely and keeping the ball well but, out of the blue, Bailly appeared to handle a Cédric cross on the edge of his box and Mike Dean pointed to the spot. For some reason (maybe he needs a goal) the duty fell to Gabbiadini: strange when JWP, a dead-ball specialist, was on the pitch. The Italian did not seem brimming with confidence but his shot was not, by some margin, the worst seen at SMS this season. All the same, Romero guessed right, got down well and got a big hand to the ball to push it away. That is 3 missed penalties in our last 5 games FFS!
Saints were soon back on the attack and a minute after his penalty heroics, Romero was obliged to field a long-range effort from Cédric. On 8m Romeu won the ball from Martial but as Saints tried to play out from the back, United nicked the ball. It fell to Bailly who took aim and hit a powerful shot on target (their ONLY shot on target) and Fraser palmed it away.
On 10m Romeu was carded for a body check on Mkhitaryan. United then mounted some attacks but the first ended with the ball running out of play and the next with an over-hit pass being collected by Fraser. On 16m Rooney finally found Martial in a decent position but the Frenchman dragged his shot beyond the back post.
On 17m a lovely Saints move ended embarrassingly when Redmond miskicked into touch. Moments later Redmond was fouled by Bailly allowing JWP to curl the free-kick just wide. Then on 20m Rooney and Martial linked up to give Mkhitaryan a chance but Fraser helped his effort past the post. Saints cleared the corner but United won the ball back. Fortunately, when the ball was played back in, Mata was well offside.
Then Saints were attacking again, the ball being swept across the pitch with United mere observers. Redmond and Tadić worked an opening for Cédric but his effort was blocked for a corner: Tadić put the ball beyond everyone. On 25m Cédric went down in the box. Mike Dean waved it away but the right-back was hurt and had to leave the pitch briefly after treatment.
United then had some possession with no end product before Saints won a corner off Jones. The kick reached Gabbiadini whose return header was cleared. The ball reached JWP but this time his cross went too long. On 33m United created a chance for Tuanzebe but Stephens headed his effort behind. The corner was cleared but when the ball came back in, Smalling’s header was claimed by Fraser.
Sky’s pundit was former Saint Danny Higginbotham and he felt Saints were dropping too deep and isolating Gabbiadini (I concur). He also suggested United’s full-backs were providing no width and consequently the middle of the park was too congested.
On 37m Cédric was booked for a shirt-pull. He still seemed troubled by the earlier knock but seemed intent on carrying on. Saints continued to press and on 41m Yoshida’s lovely chip saw Targett breaking down the left. His cross was cut out. At the other end, Mata tried to find Fellaini but Cédric headed it out. Rooney’s corner was easily caught by Fraser.
The next remark in my notes was “This is shite!”
On 45m Redmond won the ball in United’s half, played a neat one-two with Davis and drew another save from Romero. At the other end a Rooney shot sailed miles over. The one added minute soon passed. HT = 0-0.
At least Owls v Udders was also 0-0 but in the Copa Juve were 2 up against Lazio and in La Liga Real Madrid led 1-0 at Vigo. At SMS Jay Rod did a full warm-up at half time but was not brought on for the second half. There were no other changes.
On 48m Targett went down under Bailly’s heavy tackle but the ref was not interested. Then a foul on Romeu allowed Saints to get forwards and Jones brought down Cédric nearer his box. Jones was carded: then Tadić’s shot drew a fine save from Romero.
A rare United break saw Rooney bearing down on our goal but Stephens hunted him down and tackled him cleanly. Saints then won a couple more free kicks in dangerous areas. First JWP crossed for Stephens but the ball went behind for a goal kick. His next effort was headed away by Smalling but Saints sent the ball back in to Romeu who was again foiled by Romero. He was having a blinder.
On 58m Targett won a corner which JWP took. He found Stephens but United smuggled the ball away. Saints then strung together another lovely move culminating in another terrific save from Romero from JWP. Saints recovered the ball and crossed for Yoshida but Jones got the ball out. At the other end, Rooney missed with another effort.
Jay Rod replaced Gabbiadini on 62m and Tuanzebe was withdrawn by United with Carrick clocking up his 700th appearance. There were a string of missed chances by both sides , the worst being Mata’s horrid effort after good work by Smalling.
The next pair of substitutions saw Cédric finally replaced by Pied and Rashford on for Mata on 68m. Then a Stephens interception and pass sent Redmond away. His cross was met by JWP but Jones blocked his volley allowing Romero to collect.
On 71m Martial went close for United. His shot curled beyond Fraser but bounced away from the far post. Then Pied broke into the other box and replays showed his effort was blocked by Martial’s arse – and not his hand as the fans were hoping.
United were looking more mobile with Rashford up front and they were further improved when Herrera replaced Felliani. Then Boufal replaced JWP before a period of scruffy play with both sides giving up possession.
On 80m Boufal played in Tadić. His initial cross was cleared but the ball was returned to Jay Rod who shot just wide with United bleating about offside.
On 83m Tadić repaid the compliment, setting up Boufal who shot high and wide. As the game petered out, Redmond kept giving the ball away to put paid to Saints chances. With a minute left Higgy selected Romero as Sky’s MoM and right on cue he grabbed a left-wing cross from Targett.
During the 4 added minutes Rashford broke away but was flagged offside. Nothing else of interest happened and it finished 0-0. The United and Argentina keeper had been excellent but there was no hiding the fact that Saints had now played 4 games (6 hours) at home without scoring.
Juve were still 2-0 and Real Madrid now led 3-1 at Celta. It was 1-1 at Hillsborough with extra time about to start. Felt like I’d watched the wrong match…
There were no stand-out performances by Saints players so I’m opting for our most reliable player over the whole season. I’m struggling to think of a single poor game he has had and on Wednesday he was once more among our most effective footballers: Oriel Romeu gets my vote.
2 Cédric - Booked 37' (Pied 69')
14 Romeu - Booked 10'
16 Ward-Prowse (Boufal 77')
20 Gabbiadini (Rodriguez 62')
4 Jones - Booked 51'
27 Fellaini (Herrera 75')
38 Tuanzebe (Carrick 64')
8 Mata (Rashford 69')
40 Castro Pereira