SOUTHAMPTON vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Live from St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton: Koeman vs van Gaal, Schneiderlin returns, blah, blah. The more interesting aspect of this game would be how United would react following Tuesday’s defeat, would Mane try to show van Gaal what he could bring to the Reds and how would they exploit the poor handling of goalkeeper Stekelenburg.
In: Rojo, Carrick, Schneiderlin and Memphis.
Out: Shaw, Herrera, Schweinsteiger and Young.
- Martial showed why he is a vital cog in this United team. The way he pushes defenders back, how he shows strength when holding the ball up and his trickery when running at a defence is great to see.
- The way Southampton were able to carve through the middle of United was a concern as the space between Schneiderlin and Carrick was too great, thus allowing Mane chiefly to power through.
- Despite not having a great game Rooney did briefly aid his midfielders to address this imbalance. He had a tough afternoon against Wanyama.
- Mane was impressive, his speed would be a fine addition to any team but he does seem to tail off towards the end of games.
- De Gea was a stand-out performer and he proved on a number of occasions.
United’s starting line up looked very balanced (minus Shaw) with Rooney in the middle of the top three behind Martial. The thing with this front three is that it needs to work slightly differently than a standard 3+1. Martial and Memphis offer the pace whilst Rooney and Mata are craft based. There needs to be different movement rather than all moving along a line behind a static striker. Rooney doesn’t offer as much pace as he used to and Mata lacks dynamism. The set up needs to be closer with a different shape; perhaps narrower with Martial and Depay making different type of runs compared to Mata and Rooney.
Clearly Van Gaal saw Mane as the threat and he didn’t disappoint. The directness and effectiveness of this player showed what Van Gaal sees in him. Darmian struggled to cope with the runs Mane made and Tadic, the tormentor at Old Trafford, took advantage of that space.
Mane’s goal was obvious from the start. How was he allowed to pass through the middle of United’s midfield? In order to compensate Smalling and Blind moved up and allowed Mane to pass by as the ball went out wide. Pelle was left alone as a result to slot home the rebound after De Gea had brilliantly saved. The goal started even further back with a misplaced pass by Rooney.
Rooney had a good battle with the impressive Wanyama who marked him very well and this effectiveness contributed to the lack of authority from United in the middle of the pitch in the early going.
Typically Southampton sat back after taking the lead thus denying United the space to play a pass, although the time United required to make a pass was very long; ponderous.
Boom! Martial was ace in the way he turned van Dijk. He received it fortuitously from Mata but looking at it the other way, Mata was in the position to get tackled and force an error from the opposition. Take the game to them United 1-1.
Martial is very composed and it came at a time when United needed to be more direct and draw the Southampton deep lying players out of position. Smalling we know rarely does this but Blind should do this more having played in midfield often.
Southampton reverted to a 4-4-1-1 after the goal which came during the switch to a 4-5-1.
A mention to a few set pieces which were a delight to see, toward the end of the half there was a neat pre-planned corner which was United’s second of the game.
United were in control and key to this was Mata, Martial and Depay but notable by his absence was Rooney, whom you felt the game was passing him by.
Boom! Valencia came on for Darmian as United went to a 4-3-3 but this really was a 4-5-1. As the half began, the loner Martial took advantage of a poor Yoshida backpass to finish.
Stekelenburg went the other way too easily. This goalkeeper leaves a lot to be desired! After this Martial playing right sided opposed to left in first.
As the match progressed Memphis was drifting out of it, does he need more time to get used to the pace of the Premier League or is that a lazy cliche to rely upon?
Enter stage left Schweinsteiger. The time a player like he is made for. Tempo, rhythm and purpose. After his introduction United looked more comfortable when bringing the ball forward which they were doing much quicker despite Southampton’s switch to a 4-1-4-1.
Boom! Memphis started to occupy much more useful positions and ones which were similar to those in left hand channel against PSV. Schweinsteiger set him up and he showed a neat step-over to strike and hit the post only for Mata to stroke the rebound home. 3-1.
As United were in control they gave away a poor goal with five minutes remaining and made it more uncomfortable than it needed have been, especially after the good save by De Gea from Wanyama.
A win but without any shine was the verdict and the mistake by Yoshida turned the momentum United’s way. United’s goal came against the run of play and the way that Martial took the chance to follow the pass shows the development of the attacking threat.
“I am very happy with him but we and he have to keep our feet on the ground” – Louis van Gaal post match
Before the goal there were too many occasions when Southampton’s Mane was allowed through and it only cements the appeal that Van Gaal has for him and fingers crossed he becomes a Red soon. The need for speed up front is a well known but this game and Mane in particularly highlighted the lack of speed in United’s defence.
In comparison, Rooney’s ability to influence the match was not as effective as you would hope but he did drop slightly deeper after the Southampton goal to help out his midfield which is always commendable. Yet he was often blocked and making passess that were intercepted or misplaced. One factor that we’d like to see is his role as captain, rally the spirit of the team and encourage them to stand up for themselves. There’s a sense with this team that they are easily bullied or at least not able to show any fight, even if it’s for show for the supporters.
A bright spot of the game was the performance of De Gea who is proving his worth and proving why van Gaal wanted to keep him away from Real.