Two things we learned from Manchester United 2-2 Southampton

Manchester United drew 2-2 yesterday with Southampton in an intense footballing affair at Old Trafford

The Saints immediately took the game to the hosts, starting on the front foot and pegging United back. United responded well with some brilliant goals but ultimately failed to secure victory as the persistent visitors secured a late equalizer.

The result means United stay fifth, level with Leicester, and one point off Chelsea in third, with three games to play.

Here’s what we learned.

Saints Suffocation

Michael Obafemi, Southampton
All rights reserved by The Evening Standard

Southampton’s performance yesterday was a testament to just how good a coach Ralph Hassensutl is. They were easily the better side in the opening 20 minutes of exchanges. The Alpine Klopp’s game plan suffocated United’s back six and forced errors out of them.

The Saints players identified United’s weaknesses in the build-up and exploited them efficiently. They caught Paul Pogba dallying on the ball and United were punished, as Armstrong fired home.

United’s players responded well, their individual qualities shining through, as Marcus Rashford equalized for the hosts and Martial fired them ahead before the drinks break. Both goals came after good passes from Paul Pogba, with the second in particular coming from some excellent build-up to beat the Saints’ press.

The visitors never seemed defeated though and kept at their task. They successfully eliminated the threat of in-form Mason Greenwood and totally starved Bruno Fernandes of space to work with. Hassenhutl was suffocating the new United, and Ole choked.

Solskjaer seemed out of his depth, tactically unable to respond to the questions being hurled at him by his Austrian counterpart. He withdrew his midfield playmakers in an attempt to hold on to what he had, and it backfired.

The visitors grew more and more into the game and gained another advantage when Brandon Williams had to come off after a collision with Kyle Walker-Peters. United, having used up their allowed intervals, were unable to make a change and were effectively down to ten men.

In a manner eerily similar to Solskjaer’s winner against Bayern in 1999, the German coached Saints equalized in the dying embers of the match.

Obafemi was on hand to steer home Jan Bednarek’s flick from a Ward-Prowse corner, Solskjaer’s side undone by a super-sub. The Saints came marching in, and the Reds got trampled at the death.

Mixed Martial Arts 

Tony Martial, Manchester United
All rights reserved by Plug Times

Tony Martial was a bright spark for United throughout the game. The Saints’ closing down on Fernandes and Greenwood meant he and Rashford had a little more space to work with.

They used it brilliantly at times, with Rashford getting the better of his full-back on multiple occasions and exploiting the space in behind. Martial was exceptional as well, combining lovely touch and strength to set Rashford up to score, before firing home his 50th Premier League goal after breezing past the Southampton defenders.

His work rate and pressing throughout the game were super, and he nicked a few chances for himself this way. He couldn’t finish off a couple of them, and United were left to rue those missed chances. The Frenchman however showed just how good, and how important he is for Solskjaer’s side on the night.

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