Match report: Southampton 1 – 1 Manchester United

Manchester United leave St Mary’s with only one point after a 1-1 draw against Southampton. The home side took the lead after half an hour, through a deflected Che Adams shot, which turned out to be a Fred own-goal. 

United fought back in the second half, eventually equalising through Mason Greenwood, however, they could not find a winner, and leave the South-coast undoubtedly disappointed. 

United fans will still have to wait to see new signing Raphaël Varane in action, as he was only a substitute today. Jadon Sancho, however, played 30 minutes, and Jesse Lingard returned to Premier League action for the Red Devils in a brief cameo. 

Story of the game

United saw most of the ball in the first quarter of an hour, despite David de Gea being forced into an early save off a free-kick from Saints captain James Ward-Prowse

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United had the chance to draw first blood themselves just moments later. A wonderful freekick from Bruno Fernandes went right across the face of the goal, with Victor Lindelöf agonisingly close to meeting it with his head. As it happened, Harry Maguire got an accidental touch on the cross at the back post, which bounced off the bar and ricocheted into the path of Anthony Martial. The Frenchman couldn’t get a strong enough connection on his shot, and the ball was eventually cleared after pinball in the Southampton penalty area.

Paul Pogba also had a couple of chances to break the deadlock, both from Luke Shaw set-pieces. However, he saw a low shot blocked, and then a header sail over the bar. With the latter, Pogba should have hit the target.

Following that, the game, as it did from time to time today, hit a lull. Neither team could create any substantial chances, until United, who had been poor in midfield throughout the previous 10 minutes, gave the ball away once again. After Southampton chained together a few passes, Che Adams received the ball, finding space on the edge of the area. His shot, which looked to be going wide, took a big deflection off Fred and found its way into the back of the net, wrong-footing de Gea in the process. A sloppy goal to concede for United, to say the least. 

United struggled their way to halftime, only ever looking like scoring once after the Saints’ goal. Nemanja Matic climbed for a header from yet another Shaw set-piece, but his well-directed effort was saved by goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Even this chance wasn’t very threatening to Southampton’s lead. 

When play resumed for the second half, United struggled to get going. However, as the minutes ticked by, the Red Devils started to see some improvement. 10 minutes into the half, United found their equaliser. After some intricate passing between Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, the former found Greenwood inside Southampton’s penalty box, diverting the ball with the finest of touches. Greenwood finished off the move with a strike that was admittedly not his best, but still effective, as it found its way between McCarthy’s legs and into the back of the net. 

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United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær introduced Jadon Sancho with 30 minutes left to play, and United pushing for a second goal to take them into the lead.

Pogba had another great chance shortly after Greenwood’s equaliser, showing off wonderful skill to turn a couple of opposition defenders and fire off a low left-footed shot. However, with McCarthy seemingly beaten, Pogba’s effort was just wide of the post.

United had only fleeting chances after that, and, with 15 minutes to go, Saints striker Adam Armstrong had the easiest chance of the game. Captain Maguire was caught off guard at the back and had the ball nabbed off him. Armstrong was played in, with a 1-on-1 against de Gea the situation. However, Spanish goalkeeper pulled off a relatively comfortable save after Armstrong’s shot was virtually straight at him. 

From that point on, neither side threatened the other with a chance to win the game. Ward-Prowse had another effort from a freekick, which was punched away by de Gea. It seemed, however, that Southampton was content with a point against United. 

Despite a disappointing result for the visitors, there was an achievement to be celebrated, as United equalled Arsenal’s record of 27 consecutive unbeaten away games. Although it wasn’t the perfect way to equal the record, it is still an incredible achievement for Solskjær and his side. Should they break the record next weekend away to Wolves, it can hopefully be a better performance and result. 

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Midfield Struggles 

With Scott McTominay named as a substitute today, due to a minor injury, it saw a midfield duo of Fred and Nemanja Matic for most of the game. This partnership is relatively untried, in comparison to other combinations used by Solskjær in the past. 

United was very careless today in the middle of the park, often giving the ball away too easily or conceding needless freekicks. Of course, Fred and Matic were not the only two players at fault for this, but without a player like McTominay, the quality of passing seemed to be lacking. 

With a player like Donny van de Beek on the bench, Solskjær definitely could have considered starting the Dutchman. He is a player renowned for his passing ability, which is certainly one of the best at the club. Although United may lose out defensively, having just one of Fred or Matic next to van de Beek would’ve led to better passes from midfield, meaning better quality going forward.

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