In a lively encounter on the south coast, Manchester United were held 1-1 by Southampton.
United weathered Saints’ early pressing storm to take the lead but then were pegged back in the second half to confirm that the club is now on its worst start since 1992/93. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Daniel James
Manchester United spent £140m on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire this summer, and they have both been brilliant defenders so far this season – living up to the hype that surrounded their signing. They also spent £15m on Daniel James to relatively little fanfare. Back in January 2019 James was on the verge of joining Leeds before Swansea pulled the plug. He was clearly a talent but not a searing hot prospect.
But having seen the way he has begun his career at Manchester United, he’s playing well above the level of hype and monetary cost around his signing. James is almost matching Wan-Bissaka and Maguire in terms of impact; he’s now scored three in goals in his first four games and provided an incredible amount of goal threat whenever he’s been off the pitch. He also defends like a demon, using his pace as a weapon when pressing and tracking back to destabilise his opponent.
Daniel James has now scored more goals (3) than any other Man Utd player in the Premier League this season.
What a start to his career. ? pic.twitter.com/0uykJ7VZPn
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2019
Today, he rattled off 5 shots, hitting the target with 4 of them. Two of his misses were golden ones where a seasoned head may have taken a touch to finish instead of going first-time as he did. He also put in a couple of searing balls across the face of goal that, had Anthony Martial been on the pitch, probably would have resulted in a goal. Then there was his actual goal, cutting inside on his right and launched a rocket into the back of the net to give United the lead. An enormous goal from a pint-sized phenom playing way bigger than his little transfer fee.
Loser: Kevin Danso
Ralph Hasenhuttl has made Southampton fun to watch. They press superbly and when they have the ball move it back-to-front with speed and skill. Kevin Danso is a great example of that. The 20-year-old Austrian is on loan from Ausburg and was really aggressive in attack. He drove forward and tried his best to penetrate against Aaron Wan-Bissaka and then even made an assist with a nice cross.
But Ralph Hasenhuttl has also made Southampton nasty. “We want to be disgusting to play against,” he has said, and Danso was also a great example of that. He was never shy about getting stuck in, which seemed admirable at first. Then he carried on going and despite being on a yellow card he barrelled into Scott McTominay and got himself sent off at a crucial point in the game. His red meant that Saints went from pressing for a win to holding on for a draw – a huge disappointment.
Winner: Jannik Vestergaard
Despite their recent travails, Manchester United bossed the game at St. Mary’s. After the opening 10 minutes burst of pressing from Saints, United were the better side and yet they only scored once and despite raining down over 20 shots on the Saints goal. Even the ones they got through to Angus Gunn weren’t clean or open looks (beyond James’ goal and one effort late on that he volleyed over), and a big part of that was because Jannik Vestergaard was immense.
Partnered and aided by Jan Bednarek, the two of them formed an incredible wall in front of the Saints goal to prevent United from getting too many clean looks. Vestergaard made 4 clearances, 5 interceptions, and a team-high two blocks. He also scored the equaliser with a stunning header. The first effort from a corner was blocked but Vestergaard stayed alert, in space, and pounced to draw his side level. A monstrous performance.
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Loser: Victor Lindelof
There was a moment before Jannik Vestegaard scored against Manchester United when Kevin Danso had the ball and was ready to whip the cross in following David de Gea’s save where Harry Maguire signalled with his arm for someone to pick up Vestergaard. Victor Lindelof was behind him and instead of looking around him and getting close to Vestergaard, he just did the same thing.
Perhaps this is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s failure moreso than Lindelof’s, but when your defensive leader tells you to do something and instead of doing it you just pass the buck further down the line, and as a result of your choice to abstain from defending your side concedes a goal… you kind of have to be a loser.
Lindelof has always shown a weakness vs. strength (and pace) but had he got body-to-body with Vestergaard he could have impeded the Dane and prevented the goal. This is the second week in a row this has happened as Lindelof’s inability to beat Jeffrey Schlupp in the air is what allowed Crystal Palace to score at Old Trafford and ultimately win that game. And then again today, he’s cost them a win.
But then that’s Victor Lindelof at Manchester United summed up, isn’t it? Good, but not really good enough.
Winner: Ralph Hasenhuttl
In case the way he ran onto the pitch manically waving his arms wasn’t a clue, this result meant a lot to Ralph Hasenhuttl. As well it should, really. Southampton lost their first two games of the season but they stayed confident and after beating Brighton last week they took down Fulham midweek in the EFL Cup, so today’s draw means three games unbeaten and some momentum being built.
Saints were so impressive, they began at a furious pace and looked like they were going to give United hell. But The Red Devils held their ground and as fatigue slowed Hasenhuttl’s men down, United took the lead and dominated. But Saints refused to be overawed and remained a threat on the break, and at the start of the second half they began created chances semi-regularly in transition and equalised.
Then just when it looked like they could push on for an incredible win, a red card saw them forced to withdraw and protect their lead – but overall this was an incredible show of resilience for Southampton. They can do more than just play football, they can fight.
Loser: Andreas Pereira
Besides looking good in the shirt, what does Andreas Pereira bring to Manchester United? Ostensibly there’s set-pieces but if he’s in the same XI as Ashley Young that’s redundant as the Englishman takes them all. So what else? Pereira is a player who just doesn’t fit the way United play; he’s not quick enough to play in attack nor strong and intelligent enough to play in midfield. He just seems to lack the “it” needed to play at the highest level. This seems like a short point but honestly that’s just because there’s not all that much to say about Andreas Pereira. He’s kind of a nothing player, really.