Game week 6, St.Mary’s: Manchester United moved into 2nd position in the Barclays Premier League with a win against Southampton, with new boy Anthony Martial scoring twice on his full debut for the club.
Rooney gets back in the fold:
The pre-match headlines were dominated by former Southampton and United left back Luke Shaw’s tragic double fracture he suffered during the midweek Champions League defeat against PSV Eindhoven. The devastating circumstances of the injury, coupled with the loss, didn’t create an ideal mood in the United camp.
This was emphasized by manager Louis Van Gaal during his pre-match conference, with Rooney and Phil Jones’ return to training providing a much needed boost ahead of the trip to St. Mary’s. Wayne Rooney made his way back in the starting line up, with Ander Herrera making way and Anthony Martial being given his first premier league start.
Morgan Schneiderlin, another former Saints midfielder, was slotted alongside the ever dependable Michael Carrick in his first return to his former club since his summer transfer to Old Trafford. Marcos Rojo replaced the injured Luke Shaw at left back, aiming to make a good impression on Louis Van Gaal after being out of favour from the start of the season. Mata and Depay occupied the wide midfield positions, while Saido Mane, Graziano Pelle and Tadic all started in an attacking line up for the hosts.
Bright start for Southampton:
Southampton, despite not starting as well this season, made a bright start after some good attacking play, as they bossed the midfield. United were second best on every ball as the Saints utilised the wide channels with probing deliveries from Ward Prowse and Saido Mane.
Pelle who looked threatening early on almost broke the deadlock but failed to connect from a probing cross from Ward Prowse. United were lackluster and pedestrian and despite holding more possession, weren’t able to test goalkeeper Stekelenburg. 13 minutes into the match, it was the hosts who broke the deadlock and rightly so as Pelle pounced on a David de Gea’s parried save from an early Mane effort and calmly slotted it past the outstretched arms of the Spanish goalkeeper.
The tall and big Italian who has always been known for his aerial prowess, moments later almost made it two as he hit the outside of the post with the United defense looking out of their depth. Martial and Memphis did link up with some good movement, as with 24 minutes on Memphis’s looping header arced over the Southampton crossbar. The Saints aimed to dominate midfield as they pressed United high up, and aimed to cut their supplies to their front men with Rooney and Mata rarely managing to create something of substance. 34 minutes in, United finally equalized with 19 year old Anthony Martial showing utmost composure to turn past Virgil van Dijk and drill it past Stekelenburg. United picked up the tempo going into half time and almost equalized from a corner with Mata slipping a crisp pass to an onrushing Blind only to find his shot go wide.
It is Martial Arts
Ronald Koeman and Louis Van Gaal both made changes at half-time as Matt Targett replaced Cuco Martina and Antonio Valencia usurped Matteo Darmian. 5 minutes into the half, United did to Southampton, what other opponents have been managed against the Manchester club, as a sloppy back pass from Saints full back Yoshida was picked up and punished by United’s new No. 9, resulting in chants of Anthony Martial from the ecstatic United fans.
Southampton didn’t look like they were done and 60 minutes in, a quick exchange developed with United goalkeeper David De Gea producing an astonishing one handed save to deny Jose Fonte’s header, just off the line! Van Gaal decided to bring on Bastian Schweinsteiger for Michael Carrick as he sensed United finally had a real sniff at the game! Manchester United’s patient passing seemed to be frustrating Southampton. It was rewarded soon later, on 67 minutes as after a 45 pass move- the most of any goal in the league this season, Juan Mata finished after Depay hit the post as he was played in wonderfully by Schweinsteiger. 3-1 up and United looked in cruise control as Southampton midfielders started to tire.
Entering the last 10 minutes, it almost looked certain there would be no nervy moments but when has United made it easy for themselves after a two goal cushion? Saido Mane found space down the right and crossed superbly for Pelle to head past a helpless De Gea after being left uncontested by United’s back line.
At 3-2, with 5 minutes of play Southampton suddenly looked to add a final spark in their game sensing they could get something out of the game. They pushed ahead, by trying to get the ball into the 18 yard area for Pelle and Tadic to pounce on! De Gea was called into action again this time denying Victor Wanyama’s thumping drive from 20 yards out with a fine acrobatic save! Manchester United saw the game out and clinching a great win which puts them just 2 points off league leaders Manchester City. David De Gea certainly looks like he’s getting back to the form which won him United’s player of the season
Man of the Match- Anthony Martial
Martial’s ability to not be afraid of running at the opposition defense has made him formidable. His ability to turn and find space for himself has made a big difference to United’s forward play. His remarkable impact and cool finishing was something United were missing and this is only evidence to the exciting prospect Manchester United have in the young, 19 year old Frenchman. Louis Van Gaal shared similar sentiments, but promoted caution as he feels the young talent will take sometime to settle in this highly competitive league.
“Anthony Martial is already special because we paid a lot of money for him. A lot of people are thinking he is a great star but he is a boy of 19. In three matches he has shown a lot.I am very happy with him but we and he have to keep our feet on the ground.”
The Road Ahead:
Wayne Rooney continues to miss out on the goals, with the captain yet to clock an assist or a goal in the Premier League this season. Daley Blind was harried by Pelle and frequently out-muscled and must be stronger to deny opposition strikers the time and space to create goal scoring opportunities. Marcos Rojo will take sometime to settle in the LB position after not being involved in the past as United definitely looked considerably weak down the left hand flank without the Englishman. David De Gea’s stunning display would have boosted the morale after a tough week following Shaw’s injury. United next face Ipswich Town in a midweek Capital One Cup tie and could go top of the table next season as they meet a bottom-dweller Sunderland side.