Saturday, December 15, 2018

Manchester United 0-0 Southampton: Toothless United held to another draw

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Manchester United were the hosts and they were looking to cut the gap between themselves and Manchester City, which stood at 13 points before kick-off, while they have fallen into third after Chelsea’s thumping 5-0 win over Stoke. The stakes were high, and Jose Mourinho could not afford to lose.

Southampton on the other were struggling massively, with the relegation zone just a point behind them. Four wins and nine defeats is hardly the sort of tally the fans have come to expect from the Saints, and they were looking to turn their slump around.

United lost Romelu Lukaku to a head injury early on and he was replaced by Marcus Rashford, and both were guilty of missing chances as the first-half came and went with few real opportunities of note.

The second-half saw United come out looking to attack, but while the intent was there, there was little precision. A total of 15 shots saw the home side hit the target just three times, while Southampton managed that many on target from eight efforts.

Paul Pogba did get the ball into the back of the net, but it was correctly adjudged to be offside. Honestly, that was about it as chances go. United huffed and puffed, but Southampton’s house would not fall down. The point was a hugely positive one for the visitors, while the hosts fell even further behind their inter-city rivals in the title race.

Jose Mourinho loses Romelu Lukaku to injury

Romelu Lukaku has been a much-maligned figure in recent weeks as the striker has struggled for goals, while he has been suspect in defence, with poor clearances and bad marking leading to goals against his side. This has led some sections of the support to call on Jose Mourinho to drop him in favour of the likes of Marcus Rashford or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

These calls would not have been alleviated when Lukaku blazed a header over the bar from six yards out under no challenge at all. It would have been the perfect start for the striker and his club, but the chance came and went.

While Rashford was to get his chance, it was not in the way the player nor the fans would have wanted it. Lukaku went up for a header with Wesley Hoedt, and there was a clash of heads that left the Manchester United player sprawled on the ground. Of course, there was no malice in the challenge, but it saw a five minute stoppage, with Rashford coming on as Lukaku was stretchered off.

The injury gives Rashford a chance to fill the void that Lukaku has left, but the fans will hope that the Belgian is not missing for long, with a player like Lukaku always taken for granted until he is unable to play.

Southampton come to town with a swagger

Considering Southampton conceded five goals in their last game, people would not have been criticised for thinking that the visitors would set up to sit deep, stay compact and defend. A glance at the table, with the Saints conceding 30 goals in 20 games also alludes to the side needing a helping hand at the back.

However, this was anything but the case at Old Trafford. After half an hour, the away side had recorded 46% possession. While this may not sound particularly impressive, going away to Old Trafford, a stadium that is daunting even without reference to the actual players the away side will face, and almost achieving parity with the ball is an achievement.

Come to the end of the season, Southampton are unlikely to be near to the relegation zone. The players at their disposal along with their potential should be enough if they can get a few wins to push on. Of course, potential is not always enough to save a side, but on their composed showing in the first-half, they should be fine.

Manchester United slip to another damaging draw

Well, at this point, you cannot say that Manchester United deserve to win the league. Three draws in a row against Leicester, Burnley and Southampton, three sides the fans would have backed their team to beat, but they failed yet again.

Manchester Cit on the other hand, have been unstoppable. 19 wins from 20 this season is astounding, and their Premier League record shows no sign of abating. The difference between the two sides is the fact that City go out to dominate and win every single game, no matter the opposition or the venue. United, on the other hand, seem so concerned about staying compact and not allowing the opposition to score, that they do not win games. Their match against Southampton was no different, as they saw a lot of the ball, but there was an alarming lack of incision.

There is absolutely no shame in grinding wins out of games, indeed, some of the best United teams ever had to do this. The problem arises when a United side is grinding out games and not winning. If City beat Crystal Palace tomorrow, then they will have a 17 point lead over United. There is surely no coming back from that, especially not with the way Mourinho’s men are currently playing.

Is this the result to spark Southampton?

Prior to their draw with United, Southampton were winless in their last seven matches. Their last game ended in a 5-2 hammering at the hands of Tottenham, with Harry Kane starring with a hat-trick. In that match, they were taken apart at will, with Spurs so incisive and cutting offensively.

Against United, the Saints were able to form a compact defence that rebuffed everything their hosts could throw at them. Of course, United were fairly toothless on the night, but better teams have conceded goals against Mourinho’s outfit when they are playing just as badly.

The draw means that Southampton have moved onto 20 points, and they are in 13th-place, two points clear of the relegation zone. While the draw may not take up the entirety of the back pages in tomorrow’s newspaper, it could be the point that sees them arrest their slump and climb up the table.

Manchester United: De Gea 7 – Young 6, Lindelof 5, Jones 6, Shaw 5 – Pogba 7, Matic 5 – Mata 6, Lingard 5, Mkhitaryan 5 (Martial 6) – Lukaku 5 (Rashford 6).

Unused subs: Romero, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Tuanzebe.

Southampton: McCarthy 6 – Stephens 7, Yoshida 7, Hoedt 8, McQueen 7 – Romeu 6, Hojbjerg 6, Ward-Prowse 7 – Tadic 6 (Lemina 5), Boufal 6 (Redmond 5), Long 6 (Gabbiadini 5).

Unused subs: Forster, Davis, Pied, Bednarek.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Darvill


Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.

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