Southampton went to Old Trafford and earned a deserved draw against the Premier League Champions Manchester United. After a largely frustrating match where the away team had controlled possession and looked assured for large spells, but largely wasteful in the final third, Adam Lallana’s equaliser after Dejan Lovren’s shot gave us the point that I thought had gotten away from us.
Whilst all the media attention will likely be on Man United, and David Moyes, much credit should go to the Saints for a fearless performance which seemed to surprise United, and allowed us to dominate possession for most of the game. This performance was, not for the first time, led by a stunning display from Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin was fantastic on the ball, rarely playing a bad pass, whilst also showing the solid defensive ability that saw him make more interceptions and tackles than any other Premier League player last season. That was typified by his superb tackle on Danny Welbeck when in the closing minutes he tackled the England striker when he looked through on goal.
I personally still feel that in certain matches he should be playing alongside Jack Cork. Cork offers a different type of protection to Wanyama, and is far better in possession of the ball than the Kenyan. The game today is the sort of game that you’d be happy to see the Kenyan playing in as his strength and tackling ability makes him tough to beat and the pressure applied onto him against the top teams forces him to play simple short passes where he has less chance of losing the ball. Often, when he’s given more time on the ball he attempts to play extravagant passes that very rarely reach his team mates.
The obvious feeling after the game is of relief and great satisfaction at claiming such a good point so late on. But, I do think that there needs to be some focus on the areas that could be improved in the future. Chief among those for me is our wastefulness in the final third. For a team that had more possession than Man United at Old Trafford, we didn’t do enough with it when we got into the crucial areas, and actually left David De Gea with very little to do. Similarly for all of the clever touches, and clear ability, Dani Osvaldo had a game where nothing seemed to go right for him. I do, of course, accept that it will take him time to adapt to the division and there have been plenty of positive signs, but we said the same about Gaston Ramirez who has still yet to produce given the price tag he had on him, and similarly Osvaldo now needs to turn this potential into incisiveness matched with clever decision making in the final third.
Our high pressing game worked well, putting United under pressure when they were on the ball and Steven Davis was particularly impressive in stopping Michael Carrick dictating proceedings for his side, though this high line did make us susceptible on the counter attack and we were lucky not to be punished by the previously mentioned Danny Welbeck chance, and others from Rooney and Janujaz. In general though, United’s chances were few and far between, and I applaud Pochettino for sticking to his principles in a match where we always expected to face a strong attacking threat from the champions.
Overall, this was a game that threatened to follow the same pattern as our last trip to Old Trafford in January; excellent performance but leaving with nothing. That would have been harsh, and it was fully deserved when the again excellent Lovren and Lallana combined to pull us level. However, we have got to learn how to be more clinical in the final third, especially in such an open game where the space was there to produce more clear-cut chances. This however was an absolutely fantastic point for us and is just another great example of how far we have come since the start of last season.
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