SOUTHAMPTON vs MANCHESTER UNITED
08.12.2014

Southampton is a test for van Gaal’s boys; the first meeting between the two Dutch managers in England and as the last game in the Premier League weekend United had to wait to see if they could make ground on their opponents and the others above them.

PERSONNEL

In: Rooney and McNair.
Out: Herrera and Wilson.

KEYPOINTS

  • Not a great performance but a courageous one.
  • United lost the ball a lot in first half and many of Southampton’s chances came about because of this.
  • Rooney looked rusty and there were occasions when he could have been more willing to show as a second pass option. This will improve with games.
  • Van Persie played very well (having all three of United’s attempts).
  • The second half was marginally better, but there was a lack of confidence in possession.
  • Van Gaal noted post match that he hadn’t seen the confidence in this game that he had seen in training. The results are coming even if the performances are not.

FIRST HALF

This was a tepid half in which United looked uncomfortable on the ball. The back three is what it is and despite recent results there’s going to be expected mishaps if United use this system. Those in front of the defence didn’t give enough cover with Fellaini guiltier than most in a 3-1-4-2.

Although Fellaini partnered Mata ahead of Carrick, this defence needs more protection; Carrick was the only one offering this and looked very composed as usual. It’s no coincidence that his return has coincided with improved results.

IMG_0148

 

Sloppy passing persisted throughout and then Boom! United struck the first blow following a breakdown in a Southampton attack. Carrick enjoyed plenty of time to play the ball out to Rooney who neatly skipped past an opponent. However, all seemed lost as Fonte appeared in control of Rooney’s knock on but a rejuvenated van Persie deserves credit for taking a chance and intercepting the back pass, doing well to sneak it in. 1-0.

1-0 UNITED

This goal offered an opportunity to review the state of the game, poor passing aside.

Southampton opted for a front three at the start but the width between them was stark. Shane Long posted out right on Young and a number of early diagonal balls testified to this tactic. However, Young stood up to the challenge and proved to be one of United’s standout players.

SOUTHAMPTON GO LONG

The other two, Tadic and Pelle played alongside each other and attempted to drive through putting pressure on the central three.

United were lucky that Southampton’s finishing was poor. Midway through the half Tadic dropped off and Mane became more of an influence. Whilst deeper Wanyama and Davis were pivoting; a useful pairing which broke and distributed play successfully.

Nonetheless, United appeared to be coping then the poor passing spectre returned in the form of Fellaini. Using the wrong foot and in an awkward starting position he laid on a pass that was meant for Mata but intercepted by Davis. This interception around the halfway line was made worse by how Davis ran through without being challenged successfully. 1-1.

The defence went into panic mode which led to the equaliser. So much so that van Gaal brought Mcnair off for Herrera just before half time. Fellaini filled the gap left by Carrick who went centre defence whilst Herrera teamed up with Mata in a 3-1-4-2.

Fellaini needed to up his game and the defence needed to be more assured but needed to be offered more protection too. The biggest issue was the passing errors leading to Southampton’s chances.

Rooney and van Persie were detached from the rest of the team after Southampton’s goal but what was missing from them in this period was the ability to get behind the defence and encourage greater passing.

SECOND HALF

There was a touch of improvement in the second half but still the suspect passing continued and when Long missed a great chance it appeared that Southampton were going to improve their goals/chances ratio. This time Young was caught out with a diagonal ball.

YOUNG LAPSE

The channels between Southampton’s pressing presented United’s best passing option and it was this that led to United taking the lead despite arguably Southampton being the more dominant side.

IMG_0147

The irony of this goal was that the free kick from which it came interrupted United’s flow and the referee should have played the advantage; certainly Rooney thought so.

The captain took the free kick, as it sailed over everyone van Persie did well to follow its flight and sneak it in. 2-1. Boom!

Rojo and Fellaini gave United supporters kittens with their ball control but this was a game that was being ground out and United ran the clock down, see Fellaini in the corner holding the ball up.

CONCLUSION

This was not a great performance but a courageous one. Despite 81% pass completion, compared to Southampton’s 80% United’s obvious issue was poor control of the ball at key times and in key areas, (as a side issue 27 out of 57 long passes incomplete is a concern). United lost the ball a lot in first half and often in their own half of the pitch. Many of Southampton’s chances came from this.

IMG_0142

 

Although Southampton were on top United’s clearances were 100% successful; headed clearances 17 out of 17, clearances 33 out of 33.

IMG_0145               IMG_0144

Rooney looked rusty and there were occasions when he could have been more willing to show as a second pass option. Meanwhile, his strike partner van Persie played very well (having all three of United’s attempts on goal). The way he held the ball up was impressive and how he harried the lines equally so. His sixth and seventh goals against the Saints continued his good run against them.

IMG_0141

The second half was marginally better from United, but there was a lack of confidence in possession. Southampton had the better of the chances (too many!) and United were lucky.