The first match of 2015 at Old Trafford was a great occasion for Manchester United as for the first time Van Gaal had the entire squad (almost) at his disposal. Southampton has been in great form too but they have never won a Premier League match at the Old Trafford and it sure did set up the game well. However the solitary goal from Tadic ended the unbeaten run for Manchester United.
The match started with a slight misunderstanding between Smalling and De Gea, a follow-up to the same led to a shot by Clyne which went agonizingly close to the far post. In a match where the lineups suggested fireworks, the start was a bit flat with Southampton pressing high and not allowing much time to Manchester United players on the ball. The first injury casualty for Southampton was in the form of Alderweireld as he injured his thigh in attempt to stop a cross aimed at Angel Di Maria. Southampton kept pressing high and their back four ensured that there was no chance of penetrating the defense.
Post the half hour mark, there were some attacking bursts by Manchester United on the back of threatening runs by Valencia on the right wing, unfortunately he couldn’t deliver the killer ball to the Van Persie and Co. A typical run from Rooney around the forty minute mark looked like the moment where United might score as he played the ball to Van Persie but Southampton’s defense was able to negate the danger. In the added time of the first half there was a sparkling move from Mata and Rooney but again it fell flat in the final third. A better performance in the final third was expected from the host after sluggish half that would liven up the game in the second half.
The start in the second half was similar to the first half with Southampton pouching on a misplaced pass and almost creating a goal scoring opportunity only to be denied by Blind, and later by Luke Shaw courtesy a brilliant clearance. Manchester United also picked up their play with a lot of attacking intent on their left flank but the positional play and discipline of Southampton again ensured that there was no opportunity for United to score. Van Persie was taken off in at the hour mark to be replaced by Herrera and Southampton made their substitution by getting Tadic on for Elia. The next substitution was for United as Shaw made way for Blackett.
As the match was progressing there was growing discontentment amongst the Old Trafford faithful as Manchester United was unable to get any sight of the goal and right at the seventy minute mark Tadic scored the first goal of the night, giving Saints the lead. Manchester United got two golden opportunities as two great deliveries from Blind gave Juan Mata golden opportunities to open their account, but the Spaniard missed twice from close range. As the match approached the stoppage time Southampton defense still looked compact enough to hold out their first victory in the premier League era against United at Old Trafford.
A victory well deserved for the Southampton team which played on the back of a plan against a Manchester United team which never looked like scoring in the match.
Image Source: The Guardian, Premier League