By Andrew Embling
- 87th minute header from Austin wins game for Southampton
- Defeat leaves United five points off top four
Manchester United’s lack of creativity once again came back to haunt them as a late goal from Charlie Austin handed Southampton victory at Old Trafford.
Austin came off the bench to score late on his debut as United failed to create any serious attempts on goal.
It was a quiet opening which could have been used as a cure for insomnia with both sides keeping each other at arms length; Daley Blind’s long range effort the only shot of note in the opening 15 minutes.
Rooney, with a run of goals behind him in recent games, tried his luck from the edge of the area with the Southampton defence backing off him, but dragged his shot wide.
Southampton were happy to concede the lion’s share of possession to the home side, but were always a threat on the break with the pace of Long and Mane in attack.
With very little spark from either side it was Mane who had the best chance as he latched on to Tadic’s cute pass only to fail to control with only De Gea to beat.
Southampton were penning United in and Van Gaal’s men were hardly helping their cause as they continued to give the ball away carelessly.
When United did have the ball in the Southampton half they had no creativity or imagination in the final third, although Lingard’s effort was deflected just wide before half time.
Van Gaal swapped Mata for Fellaini at the break to try and wake United from their slumbers and the Spaniard combined with Rooney to almost tee up Martial as the home side showed signs of improvement.
But United’s injury curse struck again as Matteo Darmian bravely cleared a Mane cross and was clattered by Shane Long.
The defender was badly winded in the challenge and left the field gingerly with his ribs a concern, Paddy McNair taking his place.
Long almost got on the end of the resulting corner as Southampton looked to take advantage of the change, Wanyama heading just wide from another corner.
Southampton were growing in confidence, Long going close from a free kick.
Koeman introduced Charlie Austin for his debut and it was the £4 million new arrival who made the difference as he headed past de Gea with three minutes remaining.
It could have been worse for United as De Gea was called upon to deny Romeu, whilst United failed to force Forster into any save of note with Januzaj’s late effort off target as close as the home side came.
United slip to another home defeat, with pressure mounting on Van Gaal and his side and a top four finish looking increasingly unlikely.
Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian (McNair 60), Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson (Januzaj 86), Schneiderlin, Fellaini (Mata 46), Lingard, Herrera, Martial, Rooney Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Varela, Pereira, Memphis