Manchester United vs Southampton Match Analysis


Another lacklustre performance from the Red Devils as they end 2017 on a run of three consecutive Premier League draws and a winless run stretching for a further match and to start to show the holes in the United squad. Before the match had even begun, Man United's poor form of late has been used to Chelsea's advantage as the London giants leapt over their Mancunian rivals and into second place after thumping Stoke 5-0 at home, leaving Manchester United desperately needing a win in order to climb back to second place but unfortunately they remained third if only by a single point. 

United made three changes to the squad that drew 2-2 with Burnley as Zlatan Ibrahimovic was declared injured and confirmed to be out for a month and so the Swede was replaced by match-saver Jesse Lingard, as well as Victor Lindelof and Henrikh Mkhitaryan making way for Marcos Rojo and Marcus Rashford respectively. With these changes, Jose Mourinho would have hoped for a more solid defence and an aggressive and incisive attack to cut open the Saints who lost woefully on Boxing Day. 

Romelu LukakuIn spite of this, the Saints started the better of the two sides with Manchester United strolling onto the pitch, expecting the win and goals to simply happen. James Ward-Prowse offered the first shot of significance as he drilled an effort just inside the box but was saved very smartly by David de Gea, despite seeing it late. More misfortune followed the Red Devils as Wesley Hoet clashed heads with Romelu Lukaku, who collapsed in a spread eagle position and looked severely concussed as the medics and stretchers came onto the field. The Belgian striker was stretchered off and whilst some United fans were wishing for Lukaku not to start due to poor form, it's doubtful they meant for it to be in such a horrific way. Marcus Rashford replaced the striker but the game continued in the same way and Manchester United struggled to break down the Saints and find a first half lead with James Ward-Prowse coming close again through a freekick which De Gea saved again. When the chances eventually did come to Manchester United, the players spurned them as if they meant nothing with Rashford and Lingard both missing easy headers and Mata and Matic hitting soft shots straight at Alex McCarthy, who had a relatively quiet game.

David de GeaThe second half started the same way with Manchester United looking less than sharp and Southampton taking their chances when they came with Shane Long played in by Ward-Prowse and struck a powerful shot which De Gea saved with his foot and sent it high over the bar and away for a corner superbly. This save led Gary Lineker to post on Twitter 'De Gea makes more saves with his feet than most 'keepers make with their hands' and to be fair to the Match of the Day presenter, he's not half wrong...
The hosts only really got going after Mkhitaryan was substituted for Frenchman Anthony Martial, who's quick feet and featherlike touch caused problems for the Saints defenders but even then the passing and play was far too slow for any real attack to be made. At the death there was a late chance of a goal after Matic's effort was poked home by Paul Pogba but denied by the linesman as the French midfielder was deemed offside. Whilst there was no real controversy against the decision of the officials, Pogba's decision to poke home an effort that was already going in is startling and compared with Juan Mata who left Lingard's flick against Burnley to trickle into the net shows a lack in something from the named captain for the match. 

yoshida
As the final whistle was blown there were jeers all around Old Trafford as the year ended with a bitter taste of embarassment as the side that were once neck and neck with Manchester City opened the gap to be a potential 17 points and truly unassailable. The manager clearly was fuming about the decision not to award a penalty against Maya Yoshida's blatant handball and questioned further decisions against his players in the Leicester and Man City matches as well and clearly believed his side earned the penalty today as well as the ones in the respected games.

Some positives to take would clearly be how well De Gea continues to perform and hopefully how the Spanish shot-stopper will hopefully renew his contract for a lengthy stay at Old Trafford, but also how the partnership between Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones combined to form a more compact unit than the likes of Smalling, Rojo or Blind. But the injuries to Lukaku and Ibrahimovic are severe blows to Manchester United and might make Mourinho ponder whether to buy a new attacking player such as Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann, Malcolm or Ivan Perisic to bolster a 'tired' looking United and put them back on the pedestal they earned from the early performances of the season. 

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