Manchester United had to dig deep to find a 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday to stay in touch with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports in Accra, Ghana picks out the main talking points.
United survived the war ultimately
Different teams had asked Man United different questions but the Saints brought the biggest test of the season. Of course, they had to play better than ever but they tuned up the heat really high in the second half and they deserve the credit.
They showed the willingness to go at their opponents and they made sure they gave themselves a chance of at least, a point.
Even Jose Mourinho felt the pressure of the tie and got himself sent off near the end of the match. Some say for getting on the pitch while others say it was for reacting wrongly to a late corner for Southampton.
Whatever it was, it just said a lot about Jose Mourinho was feeling at the time.
But Man United, this term, look very geared to give their own answers.
They stuck in well in defence and Phil Jones deserves top marks. He was ready to put himself in the line of fire and he jumped to clear anything that looked dangerous.
Marcus Rashford gave a good shift in a position close to the left back area and helped with stopping Southampton finding fodder on that side of of the field.
The result was good but the work rate to get it was even better and that shows some progress from last season.
Not all wins are lovely but they are needed. The table never counts beautiful victories anyway and the Red Devils added another W. That is what really matters.
Star midfield did not glitter
After a great first half, Southampton played a very good second and whether it was by accident or by design, the usually outstanding Matic, the intelligent Mata and the slick Henrikh Mkhitaryan were not at their best.
And it was a worry.
Matic could not clamp Southampton down enough and that allowed to grow in confidence. Mata and Mkhitaryan too failed in their decision making in attack.
It was a poor showing and it could have been costly had the Saints scored especially as Mkhitaryan lost the ball in attack quite often and even when he kept the ball and moved forward, his indecision got the better part of him.
It could just be a bad day but Man United will do great things this season, their shield must be effective always and the brains of the attack must be quick and potent to serve the assists and goals needed to win games and possibly, the league title.
Mou earned his salary at the St. Mary’s
All victories are masterminded by coaches but often, players and the entire team get the praise. Of course, the manager is commended too but he does not highlight a lot of the mechanics he has drawn up to get the result.
The victory at Southampton, though, could be seen as one the manager gained.
Why that thought? His reaction to Southampton’s energy and endeavour in the second half. When Mauricio Pellegrino threw on Manolo Gabbidadini and Charlier Austin, it was imperative Mourinho had to say something tactically. He did. Of course, Smalling is no world beater but he was available and the gaffer used him.
Before that, Ander Herrera had been sent on to replace Juan Mata who had been under-par on the day.
The principles behind those changes were brilliant and it showed that the manager saw what was happening and decided to give his team a chance to walk away from the war field with the prize despite the onslaught of the opponent.
That was great and that feature must be replicated again when needed. The rewards will be there and only the brave and conscious will get them.
Mourinho demonstrated that against Southampton.