11/05/2014: Saints 1-1 Man United
Saints - Lambert (28)
Man United - Mata (54)
Attendance: 31,372 (3,094 Man United fans)
Referee: Mike Dean
Saints closed out the 2013-14 season with a fairly low-key 1-1 draw with Manchester United. Mauricio Pochettino's side played some good football in the first-half and were deservedly ahead at the break. United edge it in the second, and a draw was probably a fair reflection of the game.
Saints won the midfield battle during the first 45, and looked a lot more fluid in attack than their opponents. United's most threatening player was Adnan Januzaj, who was cynically fouled several times when running towards goal. The game was played at a comparatively low tempo, with most of Saints' chances coming from patient build-up play. Adam Lallana backheeled Victor Wanyama's low shot straight into the path of David De Gea. Shaw nodded over the bar from a Lallana cross. Saints were also denied a penalty when the referee failed to spot a handball from Nemanja Vidic.
The pressure from the home side eventually told, with Saints taking the lead on 28 minutes. Rickie Lambert took Vidic out of the game when he collided with the Serbian 35 yards from goal. Steven Davis picked up the ball and played Lambert through on goal. The striker had enough time to steady himself before firing in at the near post.
United continued to sit back and challenge Saints to break them down. Chris Smalling made a last ditch tackle on Lambert following a great cross from Nathaniel Clyne on the right. Lambert hit a free-kick straight at De Gea. Lallana fired a dangerous cross across the six-yard box which nobody got on the end of.
United replaced Shinji Kagawa with Michael Carrick at half-time and instantly reaped the rewards. The visitors enjoyed a better share of the ball in midfield and looked sharper in the final third. They were level on 54. Juan Mata lifted a free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net. United were on top without opening up the Saints back four too often. The home side struggled to replicate the same fluidity they exhibited in the first half. Danny Welbeck had a glorious chance to steal the three points towards the end of the game, but fired wide, having been put off by Jose Fonte. Substitute James Ward-Prowse had a shot blocked by Vidic in stoppage time, having intercepted the ball in the build-up to the chance. Welbeck then had a shot saved at the other end. That was the last major action of a fairly dull second-half.
A bit of a nothing match at the end of a good season. Saints displayed plenty of quality in the first half, but ran out of ideas in the second. A stressful summer now awaits with the future of the manager and several players still uncertain. Saints have a genuine chance to push on, and the new board should be doing everything they can to keep the current group together. Whatever happens between now and September however, it's worth reflecting back on what has been a successful campaign. Saints fans have rarely had it as good as we do right now. The last five years have been an incredible ride; let's hope there is more to come.
Boruc: 6. Didn't have that much to do. Kicking fairly awful for the most part
Clyne: 6. Got skinned far too easily by Welbeck on one occasion early on, but otherwise a solid enough defensive showing. Good forward quite a bit too
Lovren: 6. Made a few mistakes early on, but made up for it later on with a great tackle to dispose Robin Van Persie
Fonte: 6. Good defending towards the end of the game to prevent Welbeck from scoring
Shaw: 7. Did let a lot get past him. Made a couple of big challenges on Januzaj and also provided some good crosses
Wanyama: 7. A few good cross-field balls and some great skill mixed in
Schneiderlin: 6. Not the prettiest of displays, but some solid work in the middle of the park
Cork: 6. Didn't have quite as much influence on the game as usual playing further forward, but positional sense as sound as ever
Davis: 7. Involved in quite a few of the first-half chances. Linked the play well
Lallana: 7. Justified all the recent hype with another skilful showing. Opened up a lot of space during the first half
Lambert: 6. Flagging a bit during the second-half, but usually in the right place at the right time in the first
Gallagher: 5. A quiet afternoon. Showed some naivety against an experience central defensive partnership
Ward-Prowse: Looked fairly energetic
Chambers: Steady 10 minute job