Saints take deserved point from Old Trafford


Southampton followed up their north-London heroics with another courageous away performance fully deserving of a point at Old Trafford.

An explosive start to the game saw chances at both ends before Jadon Sancho tapped Manchester United into a 21st-minute lead at the end of a ruthless counter-attack.

But Saints never stopped pushing, even after Ché Adams levelled the scores early in the second half with a composed finish in off the far post.

Both sides traded blows as the clock ticked down, including a crucial save from Fraser Forster to deny Harry Maguire in stoppage time, but Saints can reflect on a productive week in their quest for a top-half finish in the Premier League.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his enthusiastic praise for Wednesday’s win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Ralph Hasenhüttl named an unchanged starting line-up.

The only alteration to the nine-man list of substitutes was the return of Tino Livramento in place of Theo Walcott.

If the memorable midweek triumph was breathless viewing, this contest between Hasenhüttl and his mentor, Ralf Rangnick, began in a similar vein.

First Armando Broja made a mockery of Raphaël Varane’s outstanding pedigree, slowing him down on the touchline and then setting off with a burst of pace that carried him deep into United territory, but his low cross was beyond strike partner Adams.

Adams, scorer of the winning goal in the capital, demonstrated his and Saints’ boosted confidence with an ambitious 35-yard shot that sailed harmlessly into the Stretford End but further underlined the visitors’ intent.

United’s struggles with consistency this season have never been at the expense of the talent in their ranks, and the pace with which they counter-attack issued Saints an early warning.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be on his longest goal drought in 12 years, but that looked likely to end when fed by Sancho with a pass that invited the Portuguese to round Forster and, in his mind, roll the ball into the empty net, only for Romain Perraud to get back on the line and save his team.

In truth, Ronaldo’s left-footed shot lacked conviction and Perraud could clear with ease, owing to his defensive intuition to sense the danger.

This was wide open stuff, and both sides had further chances to break the deadlock inside the first 10 minutes.

Mohamed Elyounoussi’s deep cross was helped back across goal by Kyle Walker-Peters, but this time Adams went too early, and was ahead of the ball by the time it arrived.

When James Ward-Prowse’s subsequent shot was blocked, Sancho led the United charge again, this time going alone and forcing a low save from Forster.

The improving summer signing had the goal his performance was threatening on 21 minutes, as the speed of United’s wide men proved Saints’ undoing.

Bruno Fernandes played the ball in behind the defence for Marcus Rashford on the right, whose low cross was gleefully tapped home by his England colleague.

By now the chaotic opening exchanges had made way for a cagier affair, with Mohammed Salisu’s deliberate handball to halt another breakaway and Scott McTominay’s foul on Elyounoussi, which required the Norwegian to need treatment, both contributing to slowing the game down.

But when Saints sped things up they looked dangerous. At the end of a patient passing move came a sharp one-two between Stuart Armstrong and Oriol Romeu, and a low shot just wide from the Scot, who already has one Old Trafford goal on his CV.

Hasenhüttl’s arms were up when Walker-Peters fizzed a low ball across goal that only needed a touch, before Broja again caused problems on the right flank, where Saints were having plenty of joy, and saw his cross deflect behind for a corner.

Armstrong was in the thick of it again five minutes before the interval, when Salisu’s long throw was inadvertently glanced his way by Paul Pogba, but it was a tough chance to get over the top of and, though he did well to keep his shot down following a high bounce, David De Gea was able to pluck it out of the air.

The Spaniard was being kept busy, as Perraud sent him sprawling to his left after jinking inside two challenges and making a decent connection on his weaker right foot.

Half time brought with it the first substitution, as Jack Stephens replaced the injured Jan Bednarek, and Saints were soon back on level terms.

Elyounoussi’s slipped pass in behind the United backline freed Adams, who kept his cool with a precise finish, side-footing the ball home via the inside of the far post to score his seventh goal in 13 matches.

Saints had United on the rack. Walker-Peters led another counter-attack soon after, setting up Armstrong to shoot from 20 yards, but he rushed the chance on his left foot and dragged it wide.

Then Luke Shaw cynically tugged back Broja in full flight, only escaping a yellow card because the striker kept going, forcing another save from De Gea.

When the ball was tipped around the post for a corner, Ward-Prowse’s delivery was headed just wide by Fernandes, whose heart was in his mouth.

The home side’s response was a Shaw free-kick that dropped kindly for Maguire, but Stephens got a vital foot in, taking the pace off the defender’s close-range shot as Forster improvised the boot the ball to safety.

Rangnick’s unpredictable team suddenly seemed revitalised, keeping Forster busy with saves from Ronaldo and Diogo Dalot, before Pogba attempted an overhead kick that was mistimed.

By the three-quarter mark the game was beginning to resemble its infancy, as both sides traded attacks at will.

Another slick piece of football saw Romeu pick out the unmarked Armstrong in space on the right side of the box, but the midfielder was uncharacteristically wild with his finish, blazing his shot over the bar as Hasenhüttl rued Saints’ profligacy.

Then Elyounoussi dinked a ball over the top for Broja, who chipped De Gea but could not find the net.

It would prove Elyounoussi’s last contribution, replaced by Livramento who played at right-back as Walker-Peters pushed up into a more advanced role.

Ronaldo, a constant goal threat even when he’s not in the game, did have the ball in the net from a Fernandes free-kick, but Saints’ high line was executed perfectly to catch the master marksman offside.

That Saints pushed for a winner speaks volumes for their progress this season, but four points from two away games in four days against Champions League contenders will certainly satisfy Hasenhüttl, especially after Forster was called upon to make a superb late save low to his left.