“It’s certainly not good for your health to watch Man Utd” is what Keane said, as United were 2 goals down to Southampton at the half time break. They came courtesy of two set pieces – one headed in from a corner by Bednarek and Ward Prowse curled in from a free kick, which would see the end of De Gea’s day eventually as he banged his left knee into the post trying to keep it out. It saw Dean Henderson come in his place but the other sub that came on, Cavani, would change the game. An assist for Bruno Fernandes and goal took us level. And then, he would come up trumps again. Another header, this time from a Marcus Rashford cross, would put United in front for the first time in the game. A scoreline that reflected the quality of chances that Solskajer’s men made throughout the game
As football shuttles on in this data revolution, there are just some things that will be unquantifiable. Momentum changes are just one of those things that can be seen or felt. You felt it as soon as Bednerak connected with Ward Prowse right foot wanded a ball into a clustered front post area. When the Englishman would once again used it to put his side two ahead, it felt like being one of those days for United. The Greenwood chance in the early embers of the game should have been put into the net but the youngster acuted the angle to such a point that the presence of Vestergaard meant that it could only be put into the side netting. Afterwards, Bruno Fernandes hit the post with a slightly deflected effort. When Southampton had made it two, a gaff from McCarthy presented Greenwood with another chance, which he struck into the keeper’s midriff. He pushed it into Bruno Fernandes path and another chance went begging as McCarthy produced a seemingly impossible save to keep the scoreline as it was. But it wasn’t just the chances. United in the first 20-25 mins were bossing the match in a way in which you do not see too often. The passing was slick, particularly down the left hand side, and the pressure from the front men and midfielders meant that the Saints’ efforts to build any meaningful possession was stopped at the source. It wasn’t the sort of pressure where Southampton were hanging on but more that it seemed a United goal to put them into the lead was an inevitability.
But you see, momentum can change back. Managers can harness it with strategical switches, formation switches and substitutions. In this case, it was Solskajer sending on Edinson Cavani, in place of Greenwood, which swung the game back the way of the Red Devils. The Uruguayan’s energy was effervescent. The chance which he ended up skying over, via a slight knick of the defender, was started with a first time pass out wide into Bruno that he delivered into the box to cause mayhem. The first goal came from a cross into the feet of Fernandes, who cooly slotted home. The Portuguese attacking midfielder would return the favour, wittingly or unwittingly I do not know, as a ball into the box would be converted home by the ex-PSG striker. What was more impressive was a header before that, which did not fall into the net, but skewed past the post but he had reason to even get to that cross. As his fitness builds, he will present a great problem for Solskjaer on how the front line will be shaped given the form of Martial leaves a lot to be desired.
The fans have been begging for the Dutchman, Donny van der Beek, to be given a starting berth in the Premier League. Today was finally the day and he delivered. Perhaps a penchant to overplay when a finishing shot would be more needed was prevalent throughout today’s game but overall, he gives United something they do not in anyone else – calm, smart decision in possession. Seeing him shows the stark deficiency in every other of the other midfield personnel currently available to the Norwegian manager. He should have his place in the team firmly affixed from this point on
“On some days they are amazing and on some days they are struggling” is what Hassenhuttl said prior to the game about Man Utd and in some ways, it was present throughout this game. Less so in the approach play, which was pretty consistent during the game in that it was of a good level. But more in front of goal. The first half saw poor finishing from those in United colours and the finishing was markedly better in the second. Rashford missing instead of squaring at 2-0 made it seem like it was one of those days but Bruno and Cavani refused to make it so