United came away from the St Mary’s with one point in a rather confusing game, as the state of the game swung between United looking like they would either come away with all three or none at all. Daniel James’s corker, a third in four games, was cancelled out by Vestergaard’s header 10 mins after the break. Danso went off on the 73rd minute after two cynical tackles were rewarded with a red card.
Tough day at the bat for Rashford
Much has been made of Rashford being given time as the focal point of the team now that Lukaku has left for Inter. Martial, surprisingly, was given the role as the man up top ahead of the Englishman and performed admirably, all things considered, in the three games prior. The Frenchman’s injury gave Rashford an opportunity to stake a claim to compete for the starting role through the middle yet the performance today showed just how much the 21 year old has learn about being a United striker. It was not just the bad decisions in the final third that frustrated those supporting United today, but the lack of presence up top, which was poor. Bednarek and Vestergaard are both physical CBs more than capable of handling themselves in the air and Rashford’s lack of imposing physicality was all too clear to see, something Martial was able to do against centre backs who have just as much to show on the physical side of the game. What’s worse is that Rashford seemed to be flat footed when crosses came in after the Danso red card. He snatched at chances and gave away possession criminally on too many occasions. The boy from Wythenshawe has said many times that he wants to be a ‘complete forward’ rather than just a typical 9, yet it is those archetypal traits as a centre forward that he is missing whenever he plays up top. United won’t always be able to sling balls into the channels for him to chase or allow him to get 1v1 with the CB. His game needs to be more varied in how he can hurt the opposition and until he is able to do that, more frustrating performances as an United 9 look likely for Rashford.
No conductor, no tempo
When facing teams we are better than, it is incredibly important to be able to move the ball from side to side with precision and pace. Outside of the top 6, you would be hard pressed to find a team that hunt the ball down as well as Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side, making the idea of passing with accurate speed all the more important. Alas, United’s passing today was more to the opposite end of that scale. Being able to find a man proved too difficult for some. Wan Bissaka gave several hospital passes in the first 20 mins or so. Rashford, as aforementioned, struggled to find a team mate regularly. However, the passes of Pogba and Pereira were something to behold, in the worst way possible. From both of them, they lost possession time and time again. What’s worse is that outside of Juan Mata, those two were the best technical players in the team so to have them lost the ball so often, whether pressure was being applied or not, just set the tempo for this irritating display. When Southampton did go down to 10 men, United did not pass the ball with any urgency. Given the players that were out on the pitch, not some of our most technically secure footballers, it is not surprising that this was the case. Still, the fundamentals were severely lacking. Too many touches, too much dithering, not enough width in possession, no one occupying the spaces between the lines effectively. It has been story played out over the last three games that is beginning to tell tales of something lacking from both the players and the management.
Little from Lingard
Even as a substitute, the 26 year old managed to display why he began the game on the bench. Twice electing to shoot when passes to Greenwood and Pogba, respectively, would have been better served, just goes to show the poor decision making in the final third that has seen him not contribute to a single Premier League goal in 2019. As the game opened up, you did see that he was able to carry the ball, under no pressure, up the field which is an asset. But once it got into the final third, he offered next to nothing again. Not even some of the quick combination play that he can sometimes bring out of nowhere was on show. If Mata were younger and faster, Lingard would be fearing for his place in the side right now.
Martial’s presence was missed today and hopefully this injury does not keep him out for too long. If not for his ability to hold the ball, but just to offer something different and take some players out of the game with his quick feet and give the Southampton defenders something different to think about.
McTominay had a solid game after a poor performance vs Palace. He was unlucky to be taken off. He set up the goal for James well and a couple of his third man runs down the right did well in taking us up the pitch on occasion. If he showed a bit more care in possession, he would performed very well considering what those offered around him.
All in all, more of the same from this United. Poor in possession, poor in transition, a bit more comfortable defensively than would be expected but still not good enough. A point from the South Coast makes it 5 in 4 and a difficult start for Ole and his boys.