Southampton v Manchester Utd
St.Mary’s, Sunday 20th September 2015
> For 25 minutes Saints were easily best
> A gift of a goal from a horrendous back pass changed everything
I didn't quite know how to approach this game. We are still a work in progress, more so than last year even. It was always going to be difficult post-Schneiderlin. On top of which we have our first choice keeper, Fraser Forster out for months yet, our franchise midfielder, Jordy Clasie seems to have played for a grand total of five minutes since arriving in July and our first choice left back, Ryan Bertrand has played even less.
On top of this we travelled down to the match with two friends who are ManU fans, but at least go to matches at Old Trafford and therefore are not plastic fans. So, there was no way on God's green earth that I wanted to see anything other than a Saints victory.
Sat over a pint, we looked at the teams when they were released. I was reasonably relaxed about Saints, even the choice of Yoshida at right back I could understand, as Cédric is comfortable attacking, but hasn't quite adjusted to the speed of the Premier League yet.
The only real talking point about ManU was the return of Wayne Rooney. As it turned out he had little effect on things, as he did a passible impression of a headless chicken during the match.
From the kickoff Saints went for the jugular. For the next twenty-five minutes ManU didn't know what had hit them. Some of the football played by the team in red and white stripes was exceptional. All that was between Saints and a three goal lead was de Gea. He was to have an excellent match. Unfortunately.
After several alarms, de Gea was eventually beaten by Pellè, who scored after the ManU goalie could only parry an initial shot right into his path. Graziano's celebrated by grabbing an imaginary rugby ball and diving over the line to touch down. His tip of the hat to the Rugby World Cup. He looked a natural.
Pellè then managed to hit the post from an awkward angle. If only.
For some reason Saints then completely backed off. I have no idea why. Even then, it took the shell shocked away team a while to threaten. When they did, Saints just back pedalled and the equaliser was ridiculous, as well as appearing to be clearly offside. The ball bounced back and forth, with nobody prepared to get a grip. One player eventually did get a grip, the hugely expensive French 19 year old, Anthony Martial.
Halftime came with the score at 1-1 and everything to play for. Koeman replaced the injured Matt Targett with Martina. Meanwhile, van Gaal replaced the hapless Darmian with Valencia. This didn't have an immediate impact, but within five minutes United were ahead, after a calamitous back-pass from Yoshida was pounced on by Martial, who calmly stroked it past Stekelenburg for his and United's second goal.
Saints were obviously completely deflated by this and really struggled to impact the game in amy way.
The third goal seemed to wrap things up for United, scored by Mata after an excellent build up.
Saints to their credit refused to give up, unlike some so-called Saints supporters, who began to make their way out. Pellè scored a tremendous header with about four minutes of normal time left. That was the signal for the team and the crowd to rouse from their slumbers. For the remaining normal time and the five minutes of added time, the Manchester goal was under siege. De Gea was the centre of attention, pulling off several excellent saves.
It was not to be though.
This was an ultimately frustrating game, as I think that Manchester United were there for the taking. If not for the brilliance of de Gea and Martial they would have undoubtably been beaten. Oh, and the gift of a goal from a momentary error of judgement. This is a very poor United side. There are undoubtably tremendously talented players there, but they don't seem to be playing as a team. Rooney in particular ran around a lot and argued with the referee a lot, but that was about it.
My man of the match was Graziano Pellè. Not just for his two goals either, he was immense all game.
As for us, as I said at the start, we are a work in progress. Bertrand is due back, to bring an experienced head to the defence. Van Dijk will settle, as will Cédric at right back. We have Clasie to accommodate in mid-field and that is by no means a given, as Ward-Prowse is at last showing the skills we always knew he had.
In short, this felt awful, but Saints will be fine
06 Fonte Booked
17 van Dijk Booked
33 Targett (Martina - 45' )
14 Romeu (Davis - 56' )
16 Ward-Prowse (Long - 76' )
01 de Gea
36 Darmian (A Valencia - 45' )
05 Rojo (McNair - 69' )
16 Carrick (Schweinsteiger - 60' )
25 A Valencia
- Pellè 13′, 86′
Man Utd 3
- Martial 34′, 50′
- Mata 68′
FT 90 +6 HT 1-1
Referee : Mark Clattenburg
Attendance : 31,588
- Southampton 41%
- Manchester United 59%
- Southampton 15
- Manchester United 10
- Southampton 8
- Manchester United 3
- Southampton 5
- Manchester United 5
Manchester United 13