54 min A miserable air shot from Pereira prompts a schadenfreudian roar from the home fans. I’m not sure Pereira is good enough at this level, certainly not as a right-sided attacker.
51 min Manchester United are given a dubious corner when Rashford kicks the ball out of play. Happily for Mike Dean, it doesn’t result in a goal.
50 min Gunn makes an important save from Rashford. He ran onto a very long pass from Lindelof, escaped the covering Bednarek and flicked a close-range shot that was blocked by Gunn.
49 min Ashley Young is limping, which is a blow for one of the teams.
48 min It’s been a very scruffy start to the second half from both sides.
Half time: Southampton 0-1 Manchester United
Peep peep! Manchester United lead through Daniel James’ emphatic early goal. They’ve been slightly the better team in an untidy game, but Southampton started to improve as half-time approached. See you in 10 minutes.
45 min Two minutes of added time. Cedric plays a good pass into the area for Ward-Prowse, who is robbed by the diligent James.
44 min United have become sloppy in the last 10 or 15 minutes, and Maguire has started to administer a few polite rollockings.
43 min Rashford ruins a promising break by passing the ball towards James, and straight out of play.
41 min Maguire appeals unsuccessfully for a yellow card after a dive from Adams.
40 min Maguire is booked for a late tackle on Adams. That aside, he’s been excellent, especially in possession.
39 min The mood of this match has changed, and crucially the Southampton crowd have been more involved in the last few minutes.
37 min Ings bursts down the right and cuts a clever, long cross back to Boufal at the far post. He chests it down, moves inside Wan-Bissaka and whips a shot that is excellently blocked by McTominay, who attacked the ball with his arms behind his back so that he couldn’t be penalised for handball.
36 min A better spell for Southampton. Ings shoots well wide from distance, and then Romeu’s long-range shot is blocked.
33 min Boufal tries to run Wan-Bissaka, who matches him for pace and makes a majestic tackle. He looks so good in one-against-one situations.
32 min Mata drags a cross-shot well wide from the edge of the area. Manchester United are still well on top, although that was the case at this stage of their last away game at Wolves.
31 min Vestergaard hoofs a clearance straight into the side of Mike Dean, prompting the biggest cheer of the afternoon so far.
29 min Danso’s long throw is punched away unconvincingly by De Gea and headed further away by Lindelof.
28 min Rashford makes a complete mess of a header, six yards out, from James’s cross. No matter: he’d been flagged offside, rightly this time.
27 min Mata clips another nice pass over the top for Rashford, who bursts down the right and wallops a low cross towards the near post. It’s blocked at the near post and put behind for a corner.
27 min “I agree with Hubert about missing the rivalry with United (although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed some of their post-Fergie travails…), but the problem goes so much deeper than Woodward,” says Matt Dony. “He’s simply not a ‘football man.’ But, he is a businessman, at the head of a massive business empire. In that context, he’s done his job magnificently. We can all laugh at strategic partnerships with dried noodle manufacturers, but they’ve brought in a helluva lot of money. And that’s a large part of his job. It’s astonishing that they still haven’t appointed a Director of Football, though, to take the football issues away from Woodward.”
Yes, all evidence suggests he’s a genius at that side of the job. And in the current climate at Old Trafford, that is more important than the pesky football.
26 min Mata is having a good game. He’s a very different No10 to Jesse Lingard, and there have been some typical, understated touches of class.
24 min “I remember attending an AC Milan-Juventus match many years ago,” says Giuseppe Donati. “Pogba was a sensation at the time and I was just curious. What I saw back then was a player roaming on the left, quite high on the pitch, mainly moving with the ball and not without, trying to shoot every single time. The feeling was of an arrogant player, deeming himself better than a central midfielder that has to run and tackle. I believe that Mourinho didn’t like his ‘number 10’ mindset either. It would be interesting to know stats about how many kms Pogba runs and balls he shoots into the crowd, versus for example the amazing Eriksen, who runs like mad and still provides quality.”
One of the odd things about Pogba is that he hardly ever shoots anymore. If I had that massive sweet spot below my right ankle, I’d be blootering it towards goal from all angles.
22 min Rashford finds James in the D. He gets the ball out of his feet and whacks a rising, curling shot that is slapped away by Gunn. It was a relatively comfortable save, but another good strike from James.
21 min Southampton started well but they’ve been a mess in the last few minutes. The groaning has started among the home supporters.
18 min The influential Mata hooks a lovely pass to Wan-Bissaka, who overhits his cross. Moments later, Wan-Bissaka leathers a volley just over the bar. It wouldn’t have counted as he’d been wrongly flagged offside. In fact, that’s one of the worst offside decisions since the days of Nicola Berti.
16 min United have passed the ball with more confidence since the goal, James in particular. Their possession play can be too ponderous, though I’m sure that will improve once Solskjaer gets the midfield he wants.
13 min James plays a one-two with Mata and tries another shot from just outside the area. He doesn’t time this season and it dribbles through to Gunn.
McTominay found James in a lot of space on the left. He moved into the area, shifted the ball onto his right foot and slammed it into the far top corner. The defending was poor – Cedric was distracted by Mata’s off-the-ball run – but it was a blistering finish.
GOAL! Southampton 0-1 Manchester United (James 10)
Daniel James gets his third goal in four games, and it’s another cracker!
10 min A half-chance for United. Mata eases a pass to Pereira on the edge of the area; he shoots first time but a defender, Bednarek I think, takes the sting out of the shot and it dribbles through to Gunn.
9 min “This may sound like random grenade throwing, but in all seriousness what does Ed Woodward have to do in order to get fired?” says Hubert O’Hearn. “Three more than competent managers in a row hired and fired, and leave us face it, if I were Ole I’d rent instead of buying. As a Liverpool fan I miss our old enemy being a threat to win the League and I just don’t see that ever happening with Woodhead, er, Woodward there.”
8 min Boufal receives the ball 25 yards from goal, moves forward and drives a low shot this far wide of the far post. That was a lovely effort.
5 min Wan-Bissaka plays a poor pass to Adams just outside the area. Lindelof cleans up the mess. It’s been a vigorous start from Southampton, who are a hard team to beat at St Mary’s if you’re not Liverpool, or Cardiff.
4 min James scoots down the left and hits a low cross that is deflected towards Rashford at the near post. He is about to flick the ball towards goal when Vestegaard makes a fine tackle.
2 min Southampton press United’s first goalkick, forcing De Gea to go long.
“Solskjaer played in the infamous grey kit game at the Dell,” says the BT Sport commentator. Wrong! He did come on in the 6-3 defeat though.
“If United really are going to embrace the ‘Crisis’, they may as well do it in style,” says Matt Dony. “Grey shirts? Or a 6-3 loss? Soundtracked by an era-appropriate Slight Return, or something.”
The odd thing about those three consecutive defeats at the Dell is that the one that really mattered is the one nobody remembers.
The players are in the tunnel, their gamefaces have been applied. It’s time for some football.
“Now,” says Aslan Greer, “I understand how France won the World Cup: by playing 4-3-3-1.”
N’Golo Kante, innit.
“What I don’t understand is why no-one seems to try Pogba as a No10,” says Richie Patterson. “He’s obviously amazing on the ball, has a killer pass and scores goals. None of which he can do if he’s having to tackle back as part of a Dm two. Imagine him receiving the ball just behind Martial, Rashford and James and setting them free without having to worry about defensive duties. Fred can then fit in on the left, next to McTom, in his natural position…”
I’m not sure. Isn’t his long passing his greatest strength? I agree 4-2-3-1 isn’t ideal either. The best system for Pogba is 4-3-3, or the 4-3-3-1 that France used at the World Cup.
“Hi Rob,” says Duncan Edwards. “It’s ironic that after missing consecutive penalties United now face Southampton – the club of arguably the greatest penalty taker of our lifetimes.”
But which one?
Southampton (4-2-2-2) Gunn; Cedric, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Danso; Hojbjerg, Romeu; Boufal, Ward-Prowse; Ings, Adams.
Substitutes: McCarthy, Yoshida, Stephens, Valery, Armstrong, Long, N’Lundulu
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; Pogba, McTominay; Pereira, Mata, James; Rashford.
Substitutes: Romero, Rojo, Tuanzebe, Matic, Lingard, Chong, Greenwood.
Referee Mike Dean.
That didn’t take long. Just two games after a stirring 4-0 win over Chelsea, Manchester United are apparently in crisis again. It’s infantile nonsense, of course, which doesn’t deserve the time of the day. But this is the culture football chose, and all the old-fashioned values in the world won’t help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer once the media go for him. The only way he can succeed with his long-term plan is to get enough good results to divert the noise elsewhere.
If United don’t win today, that noise will just get louder. It’s an unspoken rule of modern football that the Premier League must always have at least one club who are In Crisis. And if it’s one of the Big Six, so much the better.
Kick off is at 12.30pm BST.