Manchester United held on for a goalless draw against Southampton, as Romero saved Gabbiadini’s penalty in the first half.
The highlight of the goalless first half was the penalty to Southampton, which Gabbiadini failed to convert. With barely five minutes gone, Southampton were awarded a penalty for a handball by Bailly, which was a wrong decision given that he was a yard outside the box in the first place. Romero superbly saved Gabbiadini’s penalty to stop Puel’s side from taking the lead. Both teams didn’t create too many chances, and United went closest from Bailly’s left-footed effort, which was parried away by Forster. The home side came closest through Ward-Prowse’s free-kick, which was whiskers wide of the post, and a later shot from Redmond, which went straight into Romero’s arms.
The beginning of the second half saw the home side on the front foot, as they rattled United’s goal. Romero made three excellent saves, twice from Ward-Prowse and once from Romeu. United came closest through Martial’s shot, which beat Forster but bounced back off the post. Mourinho introduced Rashford, Carrick and Herrera, while Puel introduced Jay Rodriguez and Boufal, but neither team managed to break the deadlock.
This draw was United’s 17th of the season, as they are on course for another poor league season.
Here are the major Talking Points from the match-
Timely boost for Romero
With an emphatic performance, Romero has somewhat justified Mourinho’s decision to play him instead of De Gea in the Europa League Final. He was exceptional tonight, and apart from his penalty save, he was on hand to save every shot that came his way. And such a performance couldn’t have come at a better time for the Argentinian, whose morale will be boosted ahead of the showpiece match. He’s also shown that he can be relied upon even if De Gea leaves for Madrid.
Gabbiadini not at his usual best
The last time these two sides faced was the League Cup Final, Gabbiadini almost became the villain as he scored two goals, which took his tally to four in three games for his new side. However, he couldn’t do much last night, and his penalty miss in the sixth minute cost his team three points. He’s had a great first season for Southampton, no doubt, but he’s better than what he showed last night.
Poor run for Mata and Mkhitaryan
Mata and Mkhitaryan both had a night to forget, as they couldn’t put forward a solid case for the Europa League final. Micki hasn’t had too many good games in the league this season, while Mata hasn’t been at his best since his return from injury. This performance could cost them both a place in the starting eleven against Ajax, as Mourinho could opt for Fellaini and Lingard instead. They still have a chance to alter his mind, however, but Mourinho could choose to play his youngsters against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Jones good but Smalling woeful
Recently, United’s centre back pair haven’t had a great run of form, after their return from injury. However, Jones had a brilliant game as he put his body on the line to keep the scores level. Smalling had another poor game, but could still feature against Ajax, particularly because Mourinho doesn’t have much choice in that position. However, if he still plays poorly against Palace, Mourinho could react by playing Blind at centre back in the showpiece finale.
Worst league season for United?
This has by far been United’s most boring league seasons. They’ve won only 17 out of 38 matches, while they’ve also drawn 17 matches, which is a record by some distance. Even though Mourinho has targeted the Europa League, there can’t be any excuses for a sixth place finish domestically, and that too after a net spend of £150m in the summer. If Mourinho wants his team to challenge at the top next season, he needs to find a way to convert draws into wins, and purchasing top class players could help him. Lukaku or Griezmann, anyone?