MANCHESTER UNITED 1, SOUTHAMPTON 1
Battling Southampton made United pay for their profligacy in front of goal when they scored a late equaliser through Dejan Lovran at Old Trafford. Robin Van Persie’s first half goal was deserved but United should have made the game safe long before the end after missing a succession of chances including hitting the woodwork twice and another bad result at Old Trafford will only increase the pressure on United manager David Moyes.
Moyes denied that the fear factor had lifted from teams visiting Old Trafford now that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired.
“The fear’s from the team on the pitch on the day because of their quality.” he claimed.
“We were disappointed to lose a goal so late on. We had good opportunities to get the game finished off – we hit the bar twice.
“At 1-0 there was always a chance that Southampton could do something. I thought we could see it out but they got a corner late on.
“We wanted to get a bit of momentum going today but that wasn’t to be.
“If you don’t defend a corner well enough, there’s always a chance they will score. We had a couple of good chances where we could have finished them off and if we had scored a second it would’ve put the game to bed, but 1-0 is always a dangerous scoreline.”
Moyes was pleased with the performance of Adnan Januzaj today, especially as he was the target of several hefty challenges throughout the game.
“Adnan hasn’t looked out of place in the team. He’s been creating goals.
“He is a very talented player and one we are happy to have. We will try to use him at the right times and get the best out of him.
“Tackles will happen the more you get into the spotlight.”
United’s Dutch striker scored a record breaking hat trick for Holland against Hungary last week to make him the Netherlands’ top scorer and he was passed fit after a calf injury threatened to keep him out of United’s home encounter with Southampton. Tom Cleverley’s calf strain ruled him out of England’s crucial qualifiers and this game while club captain Nemanja Vidic also missed out through injury as Moyes made two changes from the side that beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light before the international break. Winger Adnan Januzaj retained his place after news of his new five-year contract filtered around Old Trafford.
Van Persie, part of a very attacking United lineup against one of the meanest defences in the Premier League so far, had already been involved in most of their best work in the early stages. A luxurious flick and several early chances including an offside run, were countered by Southampton who were most effective at the start of the game and might have opened the scoring through Dani Osvaldo who shot straight at David De Gea when clean through.
Van Persie’s United form had suffered of late – the Dutchman had failed to find the goal for the last five games – but his drought came to an end with a superb strike to open the scoring.
Teenager Januzaj, who had a very tough battle with Saints right back Nathaniel Clyne throughout, was involved in United’s first half opening goal in the 26th minute, with his defence-splitting pass putting Wayne Rooney clean through but Artur Boruc raced off his line to block Rooney’s strike only for the loose ball to fall to Van Persie who had raced up from midfield to clinically put United into the lead.
Rooney could have doubled the scoreline just a couple of minutes later when he met Nani’s cross with a firm hit and saw his effort rattle the bar.
Things picked up in the second half as United tried to make the game safe with a second goal. Rooney’s goal on the hour was chalked off for a clear handball. Just a couple of minutes later United had a flurry of chances.
An Evra cross to Rooney was put out for a corner, from which Rooney’s set piece was headed against the bar and Boruc had to be quick to deny Nani. Boruc was called into action a minute later when Carrick passed the ball to Januzaj in midfield and the fearless youngster stroked a left footed curler towards goal from 30 yards out only to see Boruc dive late to his right and tip it away one handed.
United were still not profiting from their dominance and even substitute Danny Welbeck couldn’t make the game safe after he broke free during a counter attack. Welbeck found Morgan Schneiderlin willing to track him all the way back and made a saving tackle to deny him a shot on goal.
Clyne could have equalised for the Saints with five minutes to go but his shot was saved by De Gea as Southampton began to commit more players to attack.
The visitors got their just rewards when a lofted cross by James Ward-Prowse from corner found Lovren at the back post. The Croat defender’s movement had left Phil Jones marooned and his left footed shot went in past De Gea although Adam Lallana may have got a last touch.
With five minutes of injury time United threw everything at the visitors and despite a penalty claim by Rafael who went down in the box there was to be no Fergie time winner for Moyes’ men.