Manchester United v Southampton
Old Trafford - Friday, 19th August 2016
> A Saints goal disallowed for offside
> Romeu injured after just 9 minutes
> Ibrahimovic scores both United’s goals
IBO Reporter : Spot51
Sky’s introduction of Friday Night Football could hardly have settled on a better match. We saw the first home game for Jose Mourinho, the debut of “the world’s most expensive player” (we’ll call him Pogba from now on) and, of course, the Mighty Saints - looking for their 3rd consecutive win at OT.
Fortunately I was collecting Drew from hospital and then getting dinner so I missed most of the 90 minutes of pre-match bullshit: this appeared to comprise a load of deadbeats sat on a sofa (with the regulation blonde Sky-bird) talking bollocks. I’m not convinced my evening would have been enhanced by sitting through all that TBF.
United made one change from their win at Bournemouth, bringing in Pogba for Herrera. Luke Shaw continued his rehabilitation following last season’s injury. He looks a deal chunkier than when he left us. Saints dropped Maya and JWP to the bench to bring in Fonte and Hojbjerg for their first starts. We wore the new black and grey kit but were obliged to pair it with red socks which looked odd.
Saints began on the front foot, winning a free kick which Tadic blasted against United’s wall. We spent a few minutes camped in their half before the home team attacked down their left, but Cédric broke up the attack. Their next foray down the right was blocked by Targett and the resulting corner was cleared.
It was nip and tuck for a few minutes but on 8 minutes play was held up while Romeu received treatment. He continued for a couple of minutes but, as United prepared to take a corner conceded by Davis, the Spaniard went down again. Unable to continue, Romeu was replaced by Clasie. Long headed the corner away but United won rthe ball back. Mata fed Zlatan who laid the ball back for Pogba. His shot was held by Fraser.
Højbjerg looked classy in midfield. On 15m his lovely Crossfield ball picked out Targett whose cross was laid back by Long. Tadić met it, but fired wildly over. Then Cédric played a lovely pass down the right, but the athletic Bailly outpaced Tadić to clear. Moments later Tadić again down the right chipped in to Long but United’s defenders cleared. Tadić almost got on the end of a cross on 19m. This time it was Redmond down the right, played in by Clasie, but Tadić had forgotten his stilts and the cross went high above his head.
On 21m Shaw put Rooney through on the left but Fraser came to collect his cross. Saints seemed to be doing OK and Højbjerg looked proper classy. Then on 23m the pacy Martial set off down the left. With Cédric out of position Fonte was obliged to come over to take ball and man.
Another good looking Saints move went awry when Davis misplaced the final ball. On 26m Bailly gave away another free kick. The ball was clipped into the box and fell to Long, who turned and shot into the side netting. The stats were showing Saints had more passes and more possession but, as yet, they’d not required De Gea to make a save.
On 29m United attacked down the left. Pogba chipped a pass forward, Mata headed on and Zlatan attempted an overhead kick but sent the ball beyond the far post. A minute later Virgil missed a cross but recovered quickly to put Ibrahimovic’s return out for a corner. Rooney’s cross was cleared but when the ball came back in Fonte headed into Fraser’s gloves.
Saints could have taken the lead on 32m when a ball from defence was controlled by Tadic. Looking up he saw Long breaking behind the defence and played a sweet pass into his stride. Sadly the shot did not match the pass and Long’s tame, left footed drive was easily stopped by De Gea. Next to try their luck was Rooney, but his shot from distance was held by Fraser.
There was a period of untidy play, with both sides turning over possession, at the end of which United took the lead. Rooney set off on a run towards the right hand corner flag as Valencia drilled the ball into the space behind Targett. Davis was slow getting across, allowing Rooney time to control the ball and pick out a cross. Fonte seemed distracted by the late run of Pogba and, by the time he tried to rise, the huge frame of Ibrahimovic was hanging above him. The Swede met the ball and sent a powerful header beyond Forster. 36m gone – 1-0 United.
In the remaining minutes of the half Tadić crossed for Long but the ball went too high and sailed out. Then Fellaini broke forward but ran the ball out of play. On 44m a Targett header found Tadić. The Serb pulled the ball back to Davis who fired over. Two added minutes came and went and the half ended with Saints trailing by a single goal.
There were no further changes at half time and it was United who got the first shot of the second half – Mata shooting high over Fraser’s bar. Saints Then enjoyed a period of pressure and, at the end of a great move, a beautiful cross was headed home by Tadić. It was immediately disallowed: “typical OT decision” agreed Drew and I – but the replay confirmed Tadić was well offside.
On 50m Martial cut in from the wing and hit a firm, low shot that Fraser could only parry: fortunately Virgil was on-hand to hook the ball away. In United’s next attack Luke Shaw drove into the box and went down when challenged by Clasie. “Penalty” said the ref (and the Sky commentator). “Typical OT decision” Drew and I agreed once more and this time, it seems, we have a point. There was little if any contact and, had a Saints player done that in the other box he’d have been booked for diving. It was academic that Zlatan would take it and score: 2-0 United.
I’d assumed Clasie replaced Romeu at the backwards point of our midfield diamond but during the 2nd half it became clear Clasie was operating further forward. It was Højbjerg who was dropping deepest and he looked a natural in that role.
Saints continued to enjoy plenty of possession but United, now two up, seemed content to let us have the ball and seek to hit us on the break. Too often we moved the ball nicely but there was no end product. A foul on Fonte by Zlatan on 57M allowed Saints to get forward. The ball went out to Cédric on the right. He hit a decent cross beyond the back post but Redmond’s awkward miss was very disappointing.
On 61m Virgil and Redmond worked an opening for Clasie but his shot was awful. Then United set up Mata but Targett blocked for a corner. Mata’s kick reached Pogba but his header went over. On 64 the dangerous Martial again broke forward but Virgil blocked him and Rooney stuck the rebound wide. Then United enjoyed their best attacking spell and Saints did well to hold them at bay.
Charlie Austin replaced Davis but United continued to press. Valencia skinned Targett and hung up a lovely cross to the back post. Zlatan headed back but Rooney was offside. Saints at last regained control of the ball and pushed United back. On 75m a left wing cross reached Long whose quick header flew just wide.
United replaced Mata with Mkhitaryan before Bailly felled Long. Højbjerg’s free kick reached Austin but his header went over. Then Martial was withdrawn and Herrera came on. Moments later Saints brought on Rodriguez for Long.
Tadić was seeing a lot of the ball but his passing became increasingly off beam. On 87m Tadić at last found a grey shirt and, in our next attack, Targett fed the Serb whose first time shot went wide. A minute later Tadić took another pot shot with similar results. In the final minute, Smalling came on for Rooney.
In the 3 extra minutes the only significant action saw Mhkitaryan set up Pogba but the world’s most expensive footballer stuck it wide. Time was up. A 2-0 defeat against Mourinho’s United is no disgrace. Some sides are going to get hammered at OT this season.
Saints look better with Fonte and Højbjerg on-board. We played some nice stuff and the defence did OK against some of the game’s most potent attackers. It is going forward where Puel has problems. The amount of possession and attempts we enjoyed should have required De Gea to work a bloody sight harder than he did.
Whether we get another striker in, or make more use of those on our bench, I don’t want another goalkeeper to have such an easy night as Spain’s Number 1 did on Friday.
MoM: The big Swede was the difference. He is a monster and will terrorise English football.
1 de Gea
25 A Valencia
8 Mata (Mkhitaryan 76')
10 Rooney (Smalling 89')
11 Martial (Herrera 82')
17 van Dijk
14 Romeu (Clasie 12')
8 Davis (Austin 67')
7 Long (Rodriguezat 84')
Manchester Utd 2
Ibrahimovic 36', 52' (pen)
Referee : Anthony Taylor
Attendance : 75,326
Manchester United 43%
Manchester United 12
Shots on Target
Manchester United 5
Manchester United 4
Manchester United 11