It was another aimless display from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, as the team’s reluctance to play in the Premier League becomes more evident with each passing game. Last night’s 0-0 draw means that United are now winless in five league games – a run that has seen them stagnate to the dreaded sixth position in the league table.
They fielded a side missing De Gea, Carrick, Herrera, Rashford and Pogba, though the latter was away on compassionate leave. Sergio Romero, who has been excellent whenever called upon this season, produced another sublime display to save United’s blushes.
United got off to the worst possible start with Bailly handling the ball like a Sunday League player. Yes, Eric was a good two yards outside the area but Mike Dean, with help from his assistant, pointed to the spot. Sergio Romero, staying match fit for the final next week, produced a save from what was a tame effort by Manolo Gabbiadini. You can say that justice was served.
Bailly almost single-handedly gave United the lead shortly after pouncing on a loose ball from Nathan Redmond. The run, past a couple of Southampton players and into Fraser Foster’s box, ended with a shot that required a reaction save from the Englishman.
Rooney, starting his fifth consecutive Premier League game, showed flashes of brilliance throughout the match. One of those was a superb control and pass to Martial at the quarter hour mark. Martial wasted the one-on-one chance and St. Mary’s collectively let out a sigh of relief. Henrikh Mkhitaryan also tested Foster with a low driving shot from midfield but it never really threatened to end up in the back of the net.
Romero’s only error of the match came on the stroke of half-time. A poor clearance from the Argentine saw Davis and Redmond exchange passes before the latter’s low shot was saved by the custodian.
After half-time, it was mostly Southampton dictating terms with Romero called upon time and time again to make saves. The first one of those was from a Saints freekick. Ward-Prowse’s lay off to Dusan Tadic was met with an excellent Romero stop. Southampton tightened the screw and steadily increased the pressure on the United goal. Redmond, who caused United all sorts of problems in the Cup final, played in Oriol Romeu. The latter’s shot from inside the box forced Romero into another save.
But the best save of the lot was the one to prevent Ward-Prowse. Stretching himself from heel to fingertips, Romero tipped the curling effort beyond his post.
Mourinho ringed in the changes as he brought on Rashford and Carrick in place of Mata and Tuanzebe. Mata went straight to the dressing room. It is unclear if it was due to an injury. Fellaini also picked up a knock and had to be replaced by Herrera.
United did have an attempt at goal in the second half through Martial. Picking up the ball in Southampton’s half, he breezed past defenders and hit the upright with a curling effort.
But this match only served as an audition for Jones and Smalling and to keep Romero match fit. Tick in the boxes on those fronts. United will be sweating on the injuries of Mata and Fellaini.