Ahead of gameweek ten, one of the key fixtures of the weekend was between Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Southampton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, with the former being on top notch form so far this season whilst the latter have been inconsistent on both sides of the pitch.
Going into the game, both teams were missing some key players as the Saints were without the goal-scoring machine in Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond, meanwhile, the Red Devils were missing the presence of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba. Putting the list of injuries to aside, the two sides were still able to play to the best of their ability and managed to create a number of chances.
Looking at the fixture as a whole, the Red Devils edged it out in possession and completed just under 100 passes in the final third of the pitch, proving to be quick and effective on the ball and especially on the counter-attack. Though, for Southampton, they were unable to produce a single big chance throughout the whole game and were only able to achieve 41 passes in the attacking third.
Overall, the three points for the visitors, allow Manchester United to move into the top half of the league table and into eight place. On the other hand, Southampton remain in fifth place, but could drop down a spot, should either Aston Villa or West Ham win their fixture on Monday night.
Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…
Manchester United’s issues in defending set-pieces continue
Manchester United have conceded 16 goals in nine league games so far this season, with a large number of the goals being conceded very easily and softly by the side’s backline. Both of Southampton’s goals today could have been avoidable, especially the first one, where Harry Maguire and Nemanja Matic were marking the area/zone whilst Marcus Rashford was left to mark Jan Bednarek, who had rose above the attacker and headed the ball back into the net.
And with Southampton’s second goal of the afternoon, it was an unnecessary foul from Fred that led to a free-kick in a dangerous area, just outside of the penalty box. James Ward-Prowse went on to take the free-kick and place it into the corner of the net, as he always does, leaving David De Gea with no chance of preventing the goal. As United’s goal difference currently stands on zero, they will have to improve on it instantly, in order to increase their chances of finishing in the top four.
Edinson Cavani comes on from the bench with the perfect influence
The Red Devils felt hopeless and majority of the players’ heads had dropped totally by the half-time break, as they typically failed to take their chances whilst Southampton proved to be ruthless through the set-piece routine. However, on came Edinson Cavani just after the half-time break, who completely changed the game around with his defensive work rate, movement on and off the ball as well as his immaculate ability to linkup with teammates from time to time.
The Uruguayan international achieved two goals and one assist from the bench, which is more than incredible for a player that was written off early in the start of the season and was regarded as another Alexis Sancez or Radamel Falcao, who had previously flopped during their time at Old Trafford. With his valuable experience and hunger for goals and success, the 33-year-old will certainly be playing a crucial for the team in the Premier League and in the Champions League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have found the right balance in the midfield area
It’s been just under two months since the embarrassing 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, and it seems like both Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been able to turn a new page and resume normal service in the Premier League. Since then, the team have proceeded to defend aggressively, score more frequently and continue to grind out the victories.
For sure, the goals are still being conceded and the goal difference should be much better, but there is a huge feeling that the Red Devils are about to go on a good run and that is mainly down to the balance that has been found in the middle of the pitch. With the diamond formation which consists of Nemanja Matic as the holding midfielder, Donny Van de Beek and Fred as the number eights and Bruno Fernandes in the number ten role, both the club and manager have now found their mojo.