Football Features

“The seven year itch has finally been scratched” – Five things learned as Shaw shines in Man Utd’s 9-0 smashing of Southampton

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:35, 2 February 2021

In an incredible night of football, Manchester United hammered nine-man Southampton 9-0 at Old Trafford.

The result was Manchester United’s biggest win for 26 years, being the second-time they had won 9-0 in the Premier League era, and was also the second time Southampton had lost by 9-0 in the Premier League era. What did we learn?

1. Party time at Old Trafford

Manchester United won 9-0. 9-0!! Absolutely outrageous. Everyone got in on the act with so many notable moments.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka opened the scoring with a wonderful finish, arriving at the back-post to settle United’s nerves. The full-back has long been criticised for his offensive output but today he was dribbling constantly and putting crosses in with regularity, helping United dominate.

Marcus Rashford passed Eric Cantona for Man Utd goals at the age of 23; a commendable achievement for a brilliant young man. Edinson Cavani scored a lovely header, his first goal at Old Trafford and just reward for all his excellent off the ball work to enable United’s play.

Anthony Martal came on at half-time and put an end to his miserable run in front of goal by scoring twice, two absolutely brilliant finishes that belie the crisis of confidence he has been showing lately. Scott McTominay scored a belter in another thrashing.

Then finally Bruno Fernandes got his name back on the stat sheet after several games by bagging a goal and two assists, the last of which was the ninth goal for, of all people, Daniel James!

2. Precision offsides are existential cruelty

At the start of the first-half Che Adams pulled a goal back for Southampton to make the score 4-1. Now it was never going to alter the result of the game, but it was a nice consolation for Southampton and could have at least given them a chance to “win” the second-half.

However VAR intervened as VAR is wont to do and because Adams had a limb offside by mere inches, the goal was disallowed. That is an absolutely nonsense decision. Yes, technically it is correct, but it goes against the spirit of the offside law (to prevent players taking an unfair advantage) and shows that the law should be changed. Now VAR allows decisions to be made so precisely, the law cannot stay the same.

3. Luke Shaw is great again

It’s taken seven years, but Luke Shaw is finally looking like the £30m left-back that Manchester United signed back in 2014. The surefire world-class defender that was going to take his place in the United and England XI’s for the next decade or more.

Injuries and questionable professionalism have held Shaw back and his time at United, prior to this season, had been unreliable at best. He’s still not exactly a great defender but he’s solid enough that people can now focus on his massively improve offensive output.

The arrival of Alex Telles appears to have spurred Shaw on to really perform in the final third. The left-back is constantly raiding forward and providing width on the outside of Marcus Rashford and, what’s more, his crossing has really stepped up.

Before today Shaw had created more chances than any other defender in 2021, and that lead was only extended today as the left-back created 5 chances in the first 45 minutes, including two stupendous assists for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Edinson Cavani.

Such is his importance to the side that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer subbed him off at half-time in order to protect him for the upcoming fixtures. If you had suggested that he’d ever reach that status as recently as last year you’d have been laughed at. Not now, though. The seven year itch has finally been scratched; Luke Shaw is back to being great.

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4. Hasenhuttl has to do better

For the second time as Southampton manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl has lost 9-0. That’s pretty terrible, but the net positive of the Austrian boss at St. Mary’s has been good. However the 9-0’s show the high-wire act his sides are treading, where the risks they take and the open-ness they play with leaves them open to things like this.

Hasenhuttl should absolutely not be under threat of losing his job, he’s doing well, but the Austrian will know that he has to do better when organising his players because they cannot collapse in the way they did. As much as they can surge and run at opponents, taking them on, they have to be able to shut up shop should the need arise.

Alright the injury absences from tonight’s XI and the early red card was always going to make this very hard to get a result, but what ended up happening was ridiculous. 9-0??? You can’t lose 9-0 once, let alone twice!

5. This has to be the standard for United

Manchester United have responded to two miserable attacking performances by smashing Saints 9-0. And that’s good, but this now has to be the standard for The Red Devils. They can no longer afford to be so slack. They must continually bombard opponents the way they bombarded Saints today.

United simply did not let up even a little at any time, they kept their foot metaphorically on the neck of their opponents despite their massive advantage given by the two red cards. There was no complacency, no caution, just endless attacks. Wave after wave of crosses, passes and shots. Their last three goals came in the final six minutes of play, and that is the kind of ruthlessness that has to now be the standard.

If Manchester United can approach every game with this kind of rabid intensity, pushing their full-backs on against opponents who are bedded in a low-block (like Sheffield United were at Old Trafford a week ago), then they will win more games by big scorelines and give themselves more of a chance in this title race.