Manchester United was held to a 1-1 draw against Southampton in a disappointing performance. The result saw equalled the Premier League record for the most games unbeaten away from home. United got their foot into the game after the initial five minutes, where the Saints were pressing us back. We went close through a Paul Pogba header that hit the bar for it to then fall to Anthony Martial, whose effort was cleared off the line by Mohammed Salisu. Pogba then had a free header in the box from Luke Shaw’s free-kick but his effort went over.
Southampton then came back into the game and took the lead through Che Adams’ deflected shot off Fred that took the ball past David De Gea. United was on top as the second half began and we were rewarded as Mason Greenwood scored his second Premier League goal of the season when his strike went underneath the Saints’ goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. A brilliant save from David De Gea stopped opposition striker Adam Armstrong from putting Southampton ahead.
Here we looked at five things we learned after a game that United should have probably won.
1. United could not produce another comeback
When Manchester United was playing away from home last season, it always had a predictable outcome. We would concede an early goal, then come back from behind to get the result. United had been on top during the first half. We controllled the possession and had a number of chances to go in front. However, we paid the price for not being so clinically in front of goal. As the season gets up and running, the players will reach that match sharpness that should hopefully see us being more clinical.
In both halves of the game, United and Southampton performance levels rose and dipped again. Sloppiness crept into the Red Devils but when Mason Greenwood scored our equaliser, we were on top. It was just a question of when not if we would score the goal to take us into the lead. However, our passing let us down and we were careless in our defending.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had warned before this game that we cannot afford to keep going behind. Yet this performance reminded all of United fans of the inconsistency we had last season. The game last weekend against Leeds felt like a new era but today shows we are just not quite there yet.
2. Martial fails to grab his opportunity
With Jadon Sancho not yet ready to make the starting eleven for United. It presented the opportunity for Anthony Martial to stake his claim in the number 9 role after being recalled to the side. Mason Greenwood who was excellent against Leeds was moved out to the right-wing. However, Martial did produce enough to convince he should have been in that role. He almost rewarded Solskjær for his faith in him when his header was cleared off the line in the first ten minutes of the first half. That was as good as it got for Martial.
He is not fulfilling the needs of the forward role. He should have been more resilient against those defenders who like to be aggressive. Martial did move over to the left but had been drifting that way and in which Southampton was able to manage him. It was no surprise when he was substituted in the second half with Jadon Sancho as United looked to press home their attacking quality.
3. United lacked the cutting edge at set pieces
United’s frustration looked paramount when we conceded the first goal. We had a dominant period of possession that saw us fail to take the lead. We had two chances in the opening fifteen minutes of the game, both from free-kicks. The United players got to the ball first but were unable to put it into the back of the net.
Firstly, Bruno Fernandes’s free-kick from the right was missed by the head of Victor Lindelof, which then followed a poor touch from Pogba as his header hits the bar. Martial’s effort was then cleared off the line. Pogba then found himself on the end of a Luke Shaw cross that saw him in lots of space within the six-yard box. However, he could not keep his effort down as the ball went over the bar.
When United scored the equaliser, it felts the next goal would be ours. Our creativity lacked that punch and then we became careless. If we had converted one of these set-piece chances, United could have now settled down into the game rather than having to fight their way back in.
4. Fred and Matic struggled in the midfield
Scott McTominay dropped out of the side as he was replaced by Nemanja Matic. Solskjær revealed before the game that McTominay has been carrying a slight injury and we’re hoping to get 30 minutes from him if needed. United struggled with Fred and Matic in the midfield. Fans have been saying all summer this is an area that needs to be strengthened and it clearly showed especially in the first half.
5. De Gea saves us again
United had fought their way back into the game but all the hard work done was nearly undone in the second half. A defensive error from Harry Maguire saw Southampton’s Adam Armstrong put through on goal. It was thanks to David De Gea who made the crucial save for us. He could have panicked but did not. He produces a brilliant piece of goalkeeping that ensured that United did not leave St. Mary’s with no points at all.