08/12/2014: Saints 1-2 Man United
Saints lost their third consecutive game in unfortunate circumstances. The home side enjoyed much the better of the play, but were made to pay for a couple of defensive lapses and poor finishing. Ronald Koeman's men are now 5th in the table.
Koeman's starting eleven pretty much picked itself with all the injuries. Saints took the game to Manchester United, with Sadio Mane and Shane Long attacking from out wide. Dusan Tadic offered support in behind Graziano Pelle.
Saints made a fairly slow start to the game, gifting Man United a goal in the 12th minute. Robin Van Persie latched on to Jose Fonte's under-hit back pass before slotting the ball through Fraser Forster's legs. The home side were briefly rattled by the goal, but soon took control of the game. Saints played out patiently from the back. Several moves broke down just outside the box, but as the half wore on, Saints grew in confidence.
Some quick interchanges around the penalty area led to several chances. Mane went on a brilliant solo run before he was thwarted at the last moment. On 27 Pelle's shot on the turn was easy for David de Gea to gather. The Italian striker made no mistake a few minutes later. Steven Davis got the move going with a brilliant run forward. Tadic's shot was deflected into the path of Pelle, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net. Saints continued to test a shaky United defence up until half-time. On 35 a mistake from Paddy McNair let in Long, who blasted over the bar from a difficult angle.
Saints continued to dominate their opponents in the 2nd half. On 52 Long headed the ball straight at de Gea at the back post from Tadic's cross. Pelle then missed a great chance, scooping the ball just over the bar inside the area. For all the possession, Saints were still slightly below their best in the final third.
On 70 United took the lead out of nowhere. Van Persie hooked the ball in at the back post from Rooney's deep free-kick. Saints had taken off Tadic for 18 year-old Jake Hesketh just prior to the set-play. The home side struggled for creativity towards the end of the game, with United improving as a defensive unit. There were a few chances, however. Pelle's low drive was well saved by de Gea on 77. Clyne shot just wide from outside the area on 85. United saw out the last few minutes fairly comfortably.
Once again Saints played reasonably well, but came away with nothing. Some classy finishing from van Persie was all that United offered going forward. Saints had more than enough chances to claim something from the game, but it just didn't quite happen. Koeman's men have shown some naivety against the big boys, but things might well have been different had it not been for all the injuries. United have plenty of players out right now, but still have game changers on the bench. Saints don't. That's what separates us from the top clubs. It's natural to feel down about losing three in a row, but most people would have been happy to be in this position at the start of the season. With the January window approaching and players to come back, Saints will surely hit on some form again soon.
Forster: 5. Back down to earth following last week's heroics. Could have probably done better for at least one of the goals conceded
Clyne: 7. Got up and down the pitch well and solid in defence
Fonte: 6. Terrible mistake for the first goal, but responded well
Yoshida: 7. Played to his strengths and generally made the right decisions
Bertrand: 7. Always positive, offering constant support down the left flank
Wanyama: 7. Another good showing. Won the battle in midfield
Davis: 7. Covered a lot of ground and some great footwork in the final third, particularly in the first half
Mane: 6. A fair bit of stuff he tried didn't come off, but some great bits of skill in spells and a few killer passes
Long: 6. Didn't always make the right decisions on the ball, but pressed well and some good movement
Tadic: 7. Best display for a while. Took some time to get into the game, but when he did he managed to carve out some good openings
Pelle: 7. A long overdue goal and could have had more. Took up some good positions and some neat flick ons
Hesketh: 6. Didn't disgrace himself by any means on his debut. Some tidy pieces of play
Mayuka: Won a corner towards the end of the game, but that was about it
Saints - Pelle (31)
Man United - van Persie (12, 71)
Attendance: 31,420 (3,164 United fans)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Wanyama, S Davis, Mane, Long (Mayuka 79), Tadic (Hesketh 70), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Gardos, Targett, Reed, Isgrove
Man United: de Gea, Smalling (Evans 18), McNair (Herrera 39), Rojo, Valencia, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata (Fletcher 89), Rooney, van Persie
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Januzaj, Wilson, Falcao