19/10/2013: Man United 1-1 Saints
Man United - Van Persie (26)
Saints - Lallana (89)
Referee: Mike Jones
Saints secured yet another impressive result, thanks to a late equaliser at Old Trafford. Pochettino's men had decent spells of play interspersed throughout the game, but as the clocked ticked on it looked as if there was no way back. Saints probably just about deserved it on the balance of play.
The visitors pressed hard from kick-off. Jay Rodriguez had the first proper chance of the game, heading wide inside the penalty area. Moments later Robin Van Persie hooked the ball over the bar. The Dutchman later swivelled in the box before shooting straight at Artur Boruc. United found plenty of joy down the right flank, where Luke Shaw was often outnumbered by Rafael and Nani. Saints enjoyed lots of possession after that flurry of home chances. United were uncharacteristically cautious early on. At times they looked reluctant to throw too many bodies forward, and they gave little away in defence. Pablo Osvaldo really should have done much better with his 24th minute effort. The Italian international fired tamely at De Gea from Lallana's pass.
Saints were made to pay for that missed chance within the next five minutes. Wayne Rooney latched on to a long through ball, beating the offside trap before blasting straight at Boruc. Van Persie was alert to the situation, striding beyond Boruc before slipping the ball into the net. United stamped their authority on the game after the goal, and appeared to grow in confidence. Rooney hit the bar, and Van Persie had further chances too. A long range strike from Lovren was the only other major chance of the half for Saints.
Saints made a reasonably positive start to the second half. An incisive move across the United penalty area led to an early chance, with Shaw's low cross being cut-out for a corner. Lovren's looping header was cleared off the line from the resulting set piece. The home side probably just about edged it for the next half an hour or so. Fortunately for Saints Rooney was utterly wasteful in front of goal. Boruc continued his fine work in between the sticks too, keeping out a long range Adnan Januzaj strike. Saints began to trouble United during the final twenty minutes when Clyne and Shaw pushed on in a successful effort to stretch the game. All three Saints substitutes made a bit of a difference, while United's changes merely invited pressure. That said, clear cut chances were few and far between until the final five minutes or so. Nathaniel Clyne broke free in the box, blasting the ball straight at De Gea from a difficult angle. Then in the 88th minute it happened. James Ward-Prowse's corner was whipped in with such pace that it evaded the men stationed at the near post. Lovren stabbed his foot towards goal, with Lallana adding the slightest touch to deceive De Gea on the line. United pushed hard for a winner in stoppage time, but it was hardly all one-way traffic. Saints could have nicked a second, with Lallana testing the keeper again moments before the final whistle.
Another memorable occasion. Saints were surely due a good result against United having gone so close twice last season. As impressive as the performance was, we were arguably slightly better in the aforementioned fixtures. United were a lot more prepared than they had been in those clashes too. While still far from the level you would expect of an Old Trafford side, they did play some good stuff at times, with Januzaj catching the eye once again. Saints stuck to the game-plan that worked so well last season and were rewarded with a share of the spoils. The scary thing about Pochettino's team is that several players were below their best. On another day we could have easily walked away with all three points. The fact that most neutral observers were barely surprised with the result shows how far we have come recently. The next three games are crucial. Fulham, Stoke and Hull are teams we should be looking to beat, obviously. Getting seven to nine points from those fixtures is a very realistic target. If we do, then things will be looking a lot more comfortable heading into the tricky winter period.
Boruc: 8. Made some outstanding saves to keep Saints in the game
Clyne: 7. Sloppy in possession at times early on, but excellent timing in defence, Marauding runs in the second half were crucial
Fonte: 7. Distribution a bit wayward on occasions, but defensively fine on the whole
Lovren: 8. Slightly below his best defensively in the first half, but always strong bringing the ball out from the back. Proved his worth at the other end of the pitch once again
Shaw: 7. Did especially well at the back considering he was often up against both Rafael and Nani. Good going forward too
Wanyama: 7. A very disciplined display. Swept everything up in front of the back four.
Schneiderlin: 7. Saw plenty of the ball. Often took the easy option in the first half, but much more effective after the break. Amazing slide tackle on Welbeck
Lallana: 8. Looked threatening throughout. Found a number of different ways to make things happen
Davis: 6. Tidy on the ball without being particularly inventive
Rodriguez: 5. Pressed well, but largely ineffective on the ball
Osvaldo: 5. Some decent footwork in the first half, but a big drop off after the break. Just didn't happen for him
Lambert: 6. A presence in the box, and some good hold-up work
Ward-Prowse: 6. Excellent delivery as usual
Guly: Kept things moving with some decent passing