Brave Saints beaten by late United winner

By SFC Media Sat 02 Mar Man Utd v Saints
Photo by Matt Watson | Yan Valery
Sat 02 Mar 3PM
Premier League
Manchester United
3
Southampton
2
Pereira [53'] Lukaku [59' 88']
Valery [26'] Ward-Prowse [75']
Lukaku (89') Pogba (90+6')
Bertrand (39')
Referee: Stuart Attwell | Venue: Old Trafford | Attendance: 74,459

Romelu Lukaku struck a late winner as two memorable Southampton goals and a penalty save were not enough to earn a deserved point at Old Trafford.

Yan Valery opened his account in style with a powerful 25-yard shot to silence the majority of the 74,000-plus crowd and give Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side the lead with his first senior goal in the 26th minute.

It was an advantage Saints held until half time, but two quick goals from Andreas Pereira and Lukaku turned the tide in favour of the hosts soon after the interval.

Saints battled back to draw level through James Ward-Prowse’s fifth goal in nine games – a stunning free-kick 15 minutes from time that left his team on the brink of a significant away point.

But it was to be United, and Lukaku in particular, who snatched victory in the 89th minute with another well-taken goal, before Angus Gunn kept out Paul Pogba’s penalty in stoppage time.

Hasenhüttl kept faith with the same starting line-up victorious over Fulham at St Mary’s in midweek, with Gunn continuing in goal and Charlie Austin leading the line, hoping to repeat his debut heroics on the same ground three years ago.

United had won 12 of 15 games under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and that confidence was clear from the off.

The returning Marcus Rashford nutmegged Jannik Vestergaard but could not find strike partner Lukaku with his cross, before Gunn twice denied the Belgian inside the opening five minutes.

It was a busy opening for the recently turned 23-year-old, formerly of neighbours Manchester City, who was playing on the biggest stage of his career.

First, he was alert to Lukaku’s driven shot down to his left, expertly tipping the ball around the post, before making a point-blank save to deny the same man from a corner.

Yan Valery's rocket shot left Old Trafford in shock and gave Saints a first-half lead

Respite arrived in the shape of a lengthy spell of treatment for United youngster Scott McTominay, who was deemed fit to play on before Saints settled into the game and had a chance to go in front themselves.

James Ward-Prowse’s corner from the left was met by the head of Vestergaard, who should have hit the target from eight yards with the chance to open his Premier League account.

Then Ryan Bertrand raced beyond Nathan Redmond, receiving the ball from the winger and bursting into the box beyond Chris Smalling, who definitely pulled his shirt before Bertrand went down, but a strong penalty appeal was ignored by referee Stuart Attwell.

By the time of Valery’s extraordinary opener, Saints were probably the more likely team to score – not that it detracted from the shock factor inside Old Trafford.

Receiving the ball from Austin with space to run into, the Frenchman advanced into shooting territory and tried his luck, 25 yards out, right of the ‘D’ outside the penalty area.

The rocket shot flew past former Saint Luke Shaw just inside David De Gea’s near post with such force that even the fingertips of the mercurial Spanish stopper were not sufficient to deviate its path.

Saints were nearly undone from a corner that should not have been awarded following an imaginary touch from Bertrand, as Alexis Sanchez’s clever reverse pass found Shaw, whose square ball was perfect for Lukaku until Rashford took it off his toe and the chance was lost.

Lukaku was cursing his luck again when Vestergaard brilliantly intercepted Sanchez’s cross, before an undefendable delivery from Pereira merely skimmed the head of the striker, who could not apply suitable purchase to trouble Gunn – untroubled since his initial bombardment.

Corners were proving a problem for Saints, as Smalling met another with a downward header just wide of the far post but kept alive by Rashford, before Bertrand slid in to clear, crucially, in front of Victor Lindelof.

Meanwhile, Bertrand was appealing again inside the United box when he got the wrong side of Ashley Young, but another attempt to hold back the visiting player went unpunished.

James Ward-Prowse continued his recent purple patch with a fine free-kick to make it 2-2

Saints were always likely to come under more pressure after half time. Substitute Diego Dalot, on for the injured Sanchez, wasted no time in putting the ball on a plate for Rashford, who could only nod wide of the near post from six yards.

But United’s moment would arrive eight minutes into the second period. As with Saints at the same end of the ground, it arrived out of nothing, as Pereira eyed up the top corner and curled a brilliant shot from 25 yards that started outside Gunn’s left-hand post before coming back like a boomerang and nestling in the Saints net. 

Six minutes later, the Brazilian turned provider. Feeding Lukaku in the box, he stepped inside on to his right foot and buried a low shot into the far corner. It was a harder chance to score than a couple of the ones he’d failed to convert in the first half.

Saints had been on the receiving end of a big response from the home team, but did have a sight of goal to level things up when Ward-Prowse spotted the onrushing Højbjerg, who was angry with himself for firing over when left alone on the edge of the box.

Instead it would be Ward-Prowse celebrating in front of one euphoric corner of Old Trafford 15 minutes from time.

After substitute Stuart Armstrong, on for Austin, collided with Young, Saints were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal just left of centre – just where Ward-Prowse likes it.

What followed was another stunning goal – the third of the game – as again De Gea was left helpless by the quality of the strike that left him grasping for air, this time high to his right. 

Saints may have been forgiven for settling for a draw, but entered the last 15 minutes in buoyant mood and on the front foot, as a low Valery cross just eluded goal-hungry Ward-Prowse.

But back came United, as they so often do, with Lukaku’s precise shot finding the bottom corner before Gunn denied Pogba with his feet – the last act of a breathless encounter.

Manchester United

Head to Head Stats

Southampton
  • Possession (%)
    64
    36
  • Shots
    16
    9
  • Shots on target
    6
    3
  • Corners
    9
    7
  • Passes Complete
    409
    184

Manchester United

1
David De Gea (GK)
23
Luke Shaw
2
Victor Lindelöf
18
Ashley Young (C)
12
Chris Smalling
6
Paul Pogba
7
Alexis Sánchez
Diogo Dalot (52′)
39
Scott McTominay
15
Andreas Pereira
Fred (82′)
9
Romelu Lukaku
10
Marcus Rashford
Tahith Chong (95′)
20
Diogo Dalot
44
Tahith Chong
16
Marcos Rojo
47
Angel Gomes
17
Fred
3
Eric Bailly
13
Lee Grant

Southampton

28
Angus Gunn (GK)
35
Jan Bednarek
3
Maya Yoshida
Sam Gallagher (90′)
4
Jannik Vestergaard
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
14
Oriol Romeu
21
Ryan Bertrand
43
Yan Valery
10
Charlie Austin
Stuart Armstrong (63′)
16
James Ward-Prowse
22
Nathan Redmond
55
Callum Slattery
17
Stuart Armstrong
15
Sam Gallagher
33
Matt Targett
5
Jack Stephens
11
Mohamed Elyounoussi
1
Alex McCarthy
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