Sunday, 31 December 2017

Match report: United 0-0 Southampton

United's winless Christmas run extended to a third game with another disappointing draw against a dogged and disciplined Southampton side. In the team's final outing of 2017, the Reds dropped to third in the league as Chelsea's 5-0 win over Stoke saw the champions leapfrog us and move 13 points behind City.

To add insult to injury - quite literally - Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off after a clash of heads with Wesley Hoedt inside ten minutes, with Lukaku set for a few weeks out - after Jose said he had needed a rest. 
It was he who went close early on in the fourth minute when Paul Pogba linked up with Juan Mata, whom in turn found Lukaku and he sent his powerful header over the bar. 

Out of form Saints had not come just to sit back, though, and went close themselves moments later. David de Gea came to United's rescue with a smart low save to keep out James Ward - Prowse, after Sofiane Boufal had cut the ball back at the culmination of a swift counter attack. 

Lukaku was then taken off on a stretcher and looked in some discomfort having received oxygen after a hefty collision with Hoedt. Luke Shaw's whipped inswinging cross flashed across goal, before Ward - Prowse tested De Gea at the other end with a dangerous set piece.

From the resultant corner, Mata fed Marcus Rashford who slipped in Henrikh Mkhitaryan but his ball in evaded everyone and Saints cleared. United then had a penalty shout waved away when Maya Yoshida looked to handled from Jesse Lingard, but referee Craig Pawson waved away the protests. Hoedt nodded wide and Mata fired straight at debutant Alex McCarthy, and the Reds would have gone in at the break ahead had Lingard directed his header in instead of wide after Mkhitaryan picked him out.

De Gea saved superbly from Shane Long early in the second half, and Mkhitaryan was denied from distance by the sprawling McCarthy. Anthony Martial came on as a sub despite carrying a knock, and his pace and direct running instantly caused the Saints problems. 
Ashley Young flashed a free-kick wide from 25 yards after the Frenchman was halted by Sam McQueen. Dusan Tadic went close with a header before Rashford delayed his shot when well-placed as the Reds threatened on the counter. 

Saints recently sold star defender Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool for a record fee, but despite his absence, Southampton stood firm at the back as United became more and more frustrated.
We finally looked to have found a breakthrough when Pogba poked home from a Nemanja Matic effort, but the goal was correctly chalked out for offside. Lingard had two half-chances late on but could not convert either as our final game of 2017 ended all square. 

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Paul Pogba 

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