Louis van Gaal will not have enjoyed this reversal against the Saints, after his side failed to register a single shot on target throughout the entire match, against a well drilled unit orchestrated by Ronald Koeman. There are many experts predicting that the Southampton boss could be manager of the year if he somehow manages to keep his side in the Champions League places right to the end of the season and if he can keep his main players healthy then, on this performance, they have every chance.
United probably deserved better from a match that Juan Mata missed several presentable chances in, but faced a team who knew what their roles were and in Morgan Schneiderlin have a midfielder who keeps the whole unit together. Angel di Maria was back in the home side’s line-up but he seemed to have forgotten to pack his shooting boots as a number of wayward strikes failed to trouble Fraser Forster in the Saints’ goal in the first-half.
The away side posed only a sporadic threat themselves and seemed mainly content to contain their opponents and break whenever possible, demonstrating a hard-working ethic and pressing style throughout.
Dusan Tadic started on the bench for Southampton but was introduced during the second-half and proved to be the match-winner for the South coast side on 69 minutes. The talented Serbian slipped in striker Graziano Pelle whose powerful strike rebounded off the post, but only back out to Tadic in the centre of goal who happily prodded the ball home.
United should have at least equalised afterwards as Mata blazed his shot wide after Forster had flapped at a cross. The Spaniard then wasted another decent chance from an inviting Daley Blind cross that he failed to keep down and fired another chance wide later on, as a clutch of opportunities fell his way in the last quarter of the match.
Questions were asked of van Gaal’s omission of expensive signing Radamel Falcao from even the bench yesterday, as he tinkered with his squad yet again, perhaps not totally certain of which players he can fully trust to deliver on the pitch at present. He brought Marouane Fellaini on in an attempt to pose a different threat to the away side, but as is the norm that seemed to disrupt United’s flow further as they sought a slightly more direct approach to utilise his expected strength in the air, a move that does not best please the fans of old.
What was not in question was that this was Southampton’s first league victory at Old Trafford for 27 years and a result that moved them back up to the lofty heights of third place in the table. Koeman was surely not expecting such success when he took over during the summer, with many of his best players seemingly departing for richer pickings elsewhere, but the canny Dutchman doesn’t seem to have bought into their supposed demise and instead is developing another group of aspiring stars. While the title seems a step too far for them (at least at present), the gravy train associated with a top four placing does not and they could well upset one of the supposed “bigger” sides by welcoming Champions League football to St Mary’s next season on this form. #Premier League