Post by Football News on Sept 23, 2017 16:44:45 GMT
Southampton 0 - 1 Man Utd
Romelu Lukaku strike enough to give Manchester United win at Southampton
Away team scorers Romelu Lukaku 20
José Mourinho ended up being sent to the stands here in stoppage time, though this was still the kind of victory to make him purr. Manchester United have maintained their eye-catching start to the campaign even if a contest they had initially threatened to dominate, bullying their hosts into submission, went on to become a far sterner test of their resilience.
Southampton rallied impressively after the interval and it was United who were left clinging on, though their manager, once departed down the tunnel, will still have delighted in rugged success.
His team remain on Manchester City’s shoulder at the top of the division and ahead of Chelsea, for all that those in first and third enjoyed more swashbuckling, riotous wins. Yet last term United might have wilted here and shipped an equaliser to be left chuntering at another of those wasteful score draws. This time around, with Phil Jones flinging himself into desperate challenges deep into stoppage time, they held on. Mourinho, his agitation showing as too many of his players committed themselves upfield in stoppage time, had encroached on to the playing surface to earn the referee Craig Pawson’s sanction, the Portuguese taking his time to shake the hands of the opposing coaching staff before departing. He will have heard the final whistle before he reached the visitors’ dressing-room.
Southampton’s rousing second-half display will have enthused the locals, and yet there had actually been an authority to United’s performance through the opening period that marked them out as a team whose confidence was more pepped. Up and down their spine they boasted the kind of imposing strength that seems like a trademark of a Mourinho side, from the revived Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic in midfield, to Jones and Eric Bailly at the back.
And, of course, there was Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian had unsettled Maya Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt long before opening his account for the afternoon, the centre-halves bouncing too regularly from his frame as he cradled the ball in anticipation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata or the livewire Marcus Rashford joining him at pace in enemy territory.
Lukaku can look unplayable at times. His sixth goal in as many league appearances for United was plundered midway through the first period, Ashley Young patiently waiting to squeeze space from Dusan Tadic on the flank before flinging over a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Lukaku had already held off Hoedt, the Dutchman crumpling to the turf but not complaining of a foul, and Ryan Bertrand was in no position to choke his header. Fraser Forster did well to push that effort out, but the Belgian merely converted the rebound into the empty net. Up duly went the chant that has agitated many, and prompted the forward himself to ask the fans to “move on”, pursued for good measure by a chorus of “We’ll sing what we want”.
They might have celebrated further rewards thereafter, only for Rashford’s free-kick to fizz just wide. Southampton had been becalmed, their play initially disjointed and lacking belief in the face of such pace and power for all the occasional flash of quality from Cédric Soares or Tadic on the flanks. A number of their players, commuting down from the Winchester area, had missed Mauricio Pellegrino’s pre-match team meeting after the M3 was closed following reports of “potentially hazardous material” on the road, and there was a rather awkward feel to their approach. It was certainly no way to welcome the new owner, Gao Jisheng, introduced to the crowd before kick-off, as he made his first appearance at St Mary’s since completing the purchase of an 80% stake in the club for £210m last month.
Yet the Chinese businessman, flanked by Katharina Liebherr and the chairman, Ralph Krueger, in the directors’ box, would have retained hope while the visitors’ lead remained so narrow and there was far more urgency to Southampton’s game after the break. Steven Davis’s delivery at set-pieces unnerved United, Yoshida flicking on one centre only for Oriol Romeu to poke a shot wide from close in when an equaliser beckoned. The Barcelona youth-team graduate would go on to see a header cleared from the line by Fellaini, and later scuff a shot just wide of David de Gea’s far post, while Nathan Redmond twice drew saves from the goalkeeper with Mourinho’s charges severely stretched.
Ander Herrera’s introduction was designed to tighten matters up, the balance of the contest having tipped, with United’s threat now confined to the counter. Lukaku might have prospered after Mkhitaryan’s wriggle clear of Bertrand, but Forster conjured a save with his legs. Herrera should have given him no chance to muster a repeat 12 minutes from time, only to blaze the striker’s cutback wastefully over the bar. Yet falling further behind would have been harsh on the hosts, whose frantic pursuit of an equaliser bodes well for life under Pellegrino. They will take heart from this.
United, however, will bask in a very Mourinho kind of win.