By Harry Ogilvie
- Lukaku first-half strike seals three points for United
- Win sees Reds keep pace with City at top of the table
Manchester United headed down to the South Coast to face a Southampton side who have have failed to score in eight of their last 10 Premier League matches at St Mary’s, and managed two home wins in 11.
Jose Mourinho chose the same starting eleven as the Everton game last week. David De Gea was of course the selected goalkeeper after displaying some excellent form so far this season.
Phil Jones and Eric Bailly also continued their run as the Premier League centre-back partnership. With Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia as the full-backs.
This appeared to be a very attacking choice. With Young renowned for his exceptional delivery and overlapping runs. Valencia has also been a strong attacking outlet, especially after his scorcher from the edge of the box last week.
Nemanja Matic and Marouane Fellaini also retained their place in the holding midfield role. Rashford also featured at left wing after scoring a brace against Burton Albion in midweek.
Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were the other two selected to operate in the forward line behind Romelu Lukaku.
Mkhitaryan and Lukaku would no doubt be wanting to continue their good form.
With the Armenian providing a goal and five assists. And Lukaku scoring five goals and assisting one in the Premier League so far this season.
United started the game slowly. With Southampton moving the ball with pace and looking to really press and go forward.
However, this was with little end product despite the positive intentions. This inevitably gave Mourinho’s men time to grow into the game.
Lukaku Strikes Only Goal Of Game
The Reds finally began to keep possession and looked to move the ball with more intent. United’s first fast moving attack proved to be lethal as Lukaku gave them the lead.
The move began with Bailly and was gradually moved forward. Where Mkhitaryan picked up the ball and slipped it to Ashley Young.
The veteran moved the ball from side to side before whipping in an outstanding cross. Which our Belgian scoring genius got on the end of.
Lukaku’s initial header was saved, leaving him with the simple task of firing the ball into the largely empty net. Whilst Forster attempted to recover from his first save.
The first half finished 1-0 to United. With both sides up to very little with regards to creating clear cut chances. The second half started the same, but as the minutes ticked by Southampton began to grow in confidence.
The side managed by Mauricio Pellegrino were keeping the ball very well and were starting to create chances despite any real close calls.
This was up until Southampton won a corner which ended up with Fellaini blocking the ball on the line.
Home Side Do Everything But Score In Second-Half
It was evident United were slacking off and Southampton were slowly starting to take advantage. Despite this, the Red Devils were set up well and defended with clear determination.
However, there was little going on in favour of United in the final third as the lead began to look increasingly precarious.
United had already made one change to attempt to regain control of the midfield. With Herrera coming on for Juan Mata.
But it was clear Manchester United needed to make more changes if they wanted to push on and earn the three points.
Mourinho reacted further to the Saints increasing confidence by taking off Mkhitaryan for Chris Smalling. Smalling was making his first Premier League appearance of the campaign.
Ander Herrera came close after a good attack down the left, ended up falling to the Spaniard just inside the box. However, he could not converted as the ball was shot over the bar.
The game continued as Southampton continued to pressurise United with little end product.
It was clear as day that they were lacking any real confidence in front of goal. Which will no doubt worry Saints fans. The game finished 1-0 United.
Jones And Bailly Solid Once Again
Phil Jones was again brilliant, flawless even. The Englishman, who has previously been labelled injury prone and probably rightly so is finally getting a run of games and performing.
He was defensively stern, kept the ball and passed it out from the back when required.
It is clear United can not win 4-0 every week and will have to grind out results quite a few times throughout this season. And without Jones, there is no way United could have seen this game out with the amount of comfort they did.
Eric Bailly, who partnered the Englishman also displayed his defensive determination and forbidding ability despite not being on top form.
We are used to the centre back displaying calmness on the ball and being aggressive or erratic without it.
However, it was the complete opposite today as the Ivorian appeared to be lacking his usual composure in possession but appeared to be fully competent defensively.
The centre back’s defensive performance is what deserves credit today despite at times displaying a lack of comfort on the ball.
All Defensive Players Deserve Credit
All the more defensive players deserve credit for their performance as they dug when Jose Mourinho and Manchester United were really needing them and relying upon them to ensure we secure the three points.
David De Gea, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and the full-backs, Young and Valencia deserve a mention.
De Gea was terrific as ever and contributed to yet another clean sheet. Matic was once again, pivotal in the holding midfield role.
The Serbian’s ball retention and reading of the game is extraordinary. Fellaini also moved the ball well and retained possession several times too.
The only attacking contender for man of the match was Romelu Lukaku, who has been a hot topic for United fans since his move, especially this week after discussions about the United fans song for the forward.
The Belgian did not let this distract him, if it anything it fuelled him to elevate his performance.
He scored once again to make it 8 goals in 8 games, as well as providing United with an attacking outlet.
He was constantly causing problems for the Southampton backline by running at them or holding the ball up and winning fouls.
Manchester United secured their fifth win in six league games despite a rather poor performance. Reds should be pleased with this as it is believed to be the trademark of champions.
The ability to win despite not being at your best is an important quality in any side.
Jose Mourinho will no doubt be a happy man. Despite the fact he was sent to the stand in dying minutes of the game. His side got the three points and that is all that will matter to the Portuguese.
United go into next week’s Premier League fixtures looking very good, as Chelsea face City next week, ensuring one side drop points. This is a brilliant opportunity for Lukaku and co to capitalise.