When Manchester United robbed Southampton of all three points in a 2-1 win at St Mary’s in December, you wondered whether the visitors at Old Trafford would get their revenge.
United didn’t dominate at Old Trafford as much as Southampton did at home, but they certainly saw more of the ball yet finished the day with nothing to show for it. Southampton didn’t even have to play particularly well to earn the win, although it would be unfair not to note how organised they were defensively.
The problem for both sides was an inability to create anything. United looked more dangerous after going a goal behind, having strolled through the game to that point, but it’s embarrassing that such a wealth of attacking talent could be so fruitless in front of goal. Fraser Forster, for all his slips and kicking the ball into touch, had nothing to do all afternoon other than catch a few poorly delivered crosses.
Southampton carved out one good chance in 90 minutes and scored from it, whereas United missed their two sitters in the latter stages when Juan Mata failed to hit the target. United finally had a fully fit squad to choose from, with the exception of Ashley Young, but suffered one of their worst home performances of the season.
Does this mean United do better with their star players out injured, or that Young is a football genius? Either way, Louis van Gaal must do much better than this in the coming weeks with the players he has available to him.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 6 – There was nothing for De Gea to do. For Southampton’s goal, he did well to narrow the angle for the initial shot from Graziano Pelle but was unfortunate to see the rebound off the post fall at the feet of Dusan Tadic. De Gea’s distribution further up the pitch wasn’t at its best, though.
DF Antonio Valencia, 6 – His final ball was lacking, but overall, Valencia put in a good shift. In the latter stages of the game, with United chasing a point, he beat his man time and again. Was strong defensively and pinched back possession for his team on a number of occasions.
DF Phil Jones, 6 – Went on a few runs forward and was solid enough defensively but contributed to United’s inability to get the ball up the pitch quickly.
DF Chris Smalling, 4 – Another performance to forget. Southampton offered little going forward, but Smalling was at fault for their goal. He rushed out, didn’t win the ball and then watched the man he had been marking put the ball into the back of the net.
DF Daley Blind, 5 – He’s still making his way back from injury and put some dangerous crosses in during the final stages. Blind didn’t do too much wrong but didn’t do too much right either.
DF Luke Shaw, 4 – Maybe the emotion of facing his former club got the better of him or maybe he is still finding his feet after returning from his injury, but Shaw was poor. Defensively he was sound enough, but going forward, it was a waste of time giving him the ball. He wouldn’t take on the full-back and cross and passed back to the halfway line whenever he got into a more promising position.
MF Michael Carrick, 6 – An unremarkable afternoon, but he was reliable enough. Kept possession for the team and won the ball back on a few occasions. He didn’t impose himself on the game or make much of a difference to United, though.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 – Passing in the final third was a real letdown, and he failed to get a grip of the match.
MF Juan Mata, 6 – His general performance was quite impressive and warranted a higher rating, with him bringing the ball forward well and contributing to most attacks. However, he missed two sitters, which could have won United the game.
FW Robin van Persie, 4 – Radamel Falcao will be wondering how Van Persie is keeping him out of the team after performances like this. Barely involved and barely noticed, other than some complaining at the referee in the first half.
FW Angel Di Maria, 5 – Opposition defenders are scared when Di Maria runs at them, and he had a few opportunities to worry Southampton players. However, he was largely ineffective. His dead ball deliveries were poor, and his three attempts at goal didn’t worry the keeper at all.
MF Ander Herrera, 6 – Kept possession well, and United looked better with him on the pitch.
DF Tyler Blackett, 6 – An improvement on Shaw, but that wasn’t hard.
FW Marouane Fellaini, N/R – After being shoved up front, he relied on the delivery of his teammates, but nothing much came his way.
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