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Saints At Manchester United The Verdict
Tuesday, 14th Jul 2020 09:36

As I wrote in the preview, sometimes we will get away with it and sometimes we won't, this was more of the same, but it was far from being just about luck, we got down in the dirt and battled for a deserved point.

Saints travelled up to Old Trafford on a run of good form, but the Manchester United were the form team of the Premier League and had swept everyone aside since a first restart day draw against Spurs.

But Saints started brightly and buzzed around in the opening 20 minutes although they nearly went behind against the run of play when James Ward Prowse lost possession and it needed a smart save from McCarthy one on one to keep the sides level.

But on 12 minutes if Old Trafford wasn't empty it would have been shocked into silence when Saints took the lead, it was smart work from Danny Ings who read which way Pogba would turn and nicked the ball from his feet, he layed it to Nathan Redmond who still had work to do, bursting forward and then spotting Stuart Armstrong and sending over a perfectly weighted pin point accurate cross for the Scot to take one touch and finish with aplomb.

But Saints being Saints we had to do a spot of lax defending, United's first goal saw us fail to mark Martial and allowing him to turn and lay it off to Rashford in too much space on the left to fire home.

Then within 3 minutes we were behind when we allowed Martial too much space himself and he ghosted past a couple of defenders and fired home.

These two goals were again down to a lack of concentration, organisation and being able to read the game.

At this stage it did not look good, United looked capable of a 3rd and more, but we dug in and got stuck in, sometimes too hard and TV replays showed that Romeu following through on Mason Greenwood should probably have got a red.

But we got to the break with no further damage which in itself was an achievement.

In the second half we in the main stifled United and stopped giving them too many chances, although there were a couple of tense moments, but as we neared the last 10 minutes or so you could sense the flow of the game had changed and Saints were more confident going forward and with nothing to lose were committing players in attack to push for an equaliser.

That almost came with 4 minutes to go when Nathan Redmond cut in and fired a great short which produced a superb save, at that moment you thought perhaps the game was running away from us.

But on 87 minutes Ralph made a change and on came Michael Obafemi and his moment would come.

We needed something to go our way though and a slice of luck for us but not for Brandon Williams came on 90 minutes, an accidental clash of heads saw the United player with a gash on his forehead and the blood could not be stopped, he had to go off, but United were unable to make another substitution so had to play on with 10 men.

This gave Saints further impetus, but how long did they have left, the board said 5 minutes but that was given just before the injury to Williams so it could be anything between 5 & 10 minutes of injury time.

The incident seemed to unnerve United and they were lacking organisation and this spurred us on, in the 6th minute a corner was put in perfectly by Ward Prowse and Jan Bednarek's glancing header down was turned in on the line to ensure that the United defender on the post did not clear.

Saints saw out injury time comfortably and United were deflated, if anything another Saints goal was the more likely.

So a game that had everything I predicted in the preview including sadly the lapses in concentration that cost us soft goals, but what it also had was a fighting performance, a team spirit that seems to grow by the game, it wasn't there before the break so much, but it is plain to see now.

We got down in the dirt and got dirty in a way that we didn't do earlier in the season, we chased and we bit at the legs of players hassled them, but and I know that the I keep harping on about it, the defensive lapses have to be dealt with, we can press well for periods in the game, but we cannot keep up the high intensity for 90 minutes, no teams can, when need a breather we have to be able to defend and keep teams out.

We should not get carried away, we still need to address the defensive problems, but if we do next season then we are a top 10 side.

I have always kept faith this season, I am not blowing my own trumpet, but I have been consistent in my comments and criticisms and I have also been constructive. I said at the start of the season that we were a potential top 10 side but our defensive lapses would cost us, I have stuck to that and been proved right.

But even in that darkest hour against Leicester, I knew we were not a bad side, that the season could be turned around and it has.

We have a manager and a team to be proud of again and this season will finish not with relegation, but with disappointment that with less soft goals conceded we could have been not only in the top 10 but the 6th position that Wolves sit in today only 10 points clear, that would have been only 4 points had we held on to a 2-0 half time lead against them.

This was a great result, there was a feeling when we returned that our first two wins were against teams in freefall, but this was a point against a United team in it's best form for several years.

Now we have to finish with a flourish and look to see how high we can get, 9th or 10th may well be beyond us, but certainly 11th should be the target.

Photo: Action Images

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NewburySaint added 09:47 - Jul 14
Great stuff again from Saints-a thoroughly deserved point, even more so as the game got older with the ref starting to have more of an influence in Utd’s favour, to our detriment.

It was also good to see a bit of devil in our game without overstepping the mark, just-it’s been a while since we’ve seen that from a Saints side.

Wembley76 added 09:49 - Jul 14
Classic RH away performance......... and a thoroughly deserved result!

Consigliere added 09:56 - Jul 14
I thought that Harry Maguire's post match comment captured the spirit of our game best. "They press like mad" he said of the Saints, and that is exactly the point. The high pressing game we have been playing is not only entertaining and exciting for the fans (even if we draw or lose), it is also the best means of defence. For too many seasons we have been watching endless back-passing and cross-field passing and not enough pushing forwards at the opposition defence. At long last we have changed this, and what a difference it has made. Ings looked exhausted by the end but Redmond was still going strong and the introduction of our top Irishmen Shane Long and Michael O'Befami meant we kept up the relentless pressure. Great work from everyone.

IanRC added 09:58 - Jul 14
A great result from a good dogged performance. Thought it raised a lot of questions about whether WP is up to it. I thought he was at fault for both goals being drawn in to leave Rashford unmarked and failing to send Martial to the outside or even put in an effective challenge on Martial. Defensively he was poor and his crossing wasn’t much better. Hope he will not cost us more than £10m.

On another point, interesting to see Sky’s hysteria on Romeu’s challenge. If looked at carefully you can see Romeu’s standing foot slipped as he tried to slow down. No such debate about Fernandez similar challenge on Bertrand I think in the first half, he had much less excuse.

We have the foundation of a good team but work still to be done. In the meantime we’ll done lads.

davepid added 10:01 - Jul 14
A few million neutral supporters ,watching on TV, will have appreciated the Southampton they’ve seen in the games against the two Manchester teams, both of which tend to be unloved by all fans other than their own. It’s great that my team has acquitted itself so well not just in the results. One of which saw Utd slip from 3 rd to 5 th in the 96 min at Old Trafford ( good bye Fergie Time) scored by a youngster many neutrals will think is another product of our Academy. But it was the way we played that counted: my team played decent football in the way it attacked, the way it defended but above all showed tremendous character and fitness levels in their play. Well done to each and every player involved and to Ralph.

AirFlorida added 10:10 - Jul 14
Yes, well summed up. We now look more organised and fitter. What will define next season, covid aside, is keeping key players and having depth to cover injuries. Ings won't be able to survive a full season in my view and the lockdown was perfect timing for him to get some rest and come back reinvigorated. If Ralph can manage him and not play the socks off him (assuming we can keep him!) I can't wait for next season to start. Be interesting to see how they ease fans back in to grounds too. Pleased the Cherries won, as I look forward to another couple of plastic derbies if they can stay up 😉

saintpp added 10:16 - Jul 14
What fighting spirit they showed i thought it was all over when it went 2-1 but they didnt!. We dominated the second half and the goal was no suprise if very late. Saints have had bad habit of not coming back from a losing position but this shows the mentality has changed.
As for defensive lapses being mentioned again we were up against expensive world class speedy attackers who have been unstoppable recently Of course they will make chances cant stop them all the time. Id say we arent higher up the league because we havent finished teams off when we could have killed the game more than normal defensive errors.
Best form of defence is attack Everton for one should have been finished off before they got their wonder goal. What about we''ll score more than you instead of insisting on a clean sheet every game.

pwithers123 added 10:28 - Jul 14
Superb performance - had the temperament to cope with two excellent United goals from class attackers - who have been taking other teams apart. Yes. WP looked a vulnerable at times against them - as they pushed hard down his side rather than the left - but he kept going despite that. He will improve. Redmond gradually getting sharper. Even when he is not at his attacking best - he is always an option to holds the ball - enables others. The full team press was awesome - kept united penned back much of the time until they started to ping long balls - at which point we will always look vulnerable. Its tough being a central defender when you are part of a team that presses very high. When the break occurs - then you are exposed.

saintstu1969 added 10:34 - Jul 14
First goal Man Utd scored we could have done better with but the second goal you could also say was from a striker in a very rich vein of form and hit the ball perfectly.
Every team has mistakes at the back it just seems that we get punished more than others.
That being said the spirit in the side and how they are playing is great to see and I hope this can continue into next season.

davidargyll added 10:43 - Jul 14
I more or less agree with most points raisedbut it did look to me as if maybe the run of tough games in three weeks or so is starting to take a toll. JW seemed under-cooked for the whole game and KWP looked as if he was at walking pace compared with Martial. That said we play some lovely stuff and the RH way of playing causes problems for everybody but when you have a forward line like United's, we are going to get caught.
I would only add that all this rubbish talked about us having nothing to play for, every spot higher up the table is worth a couple of million give or take, which just could make the difference between us buying a bit of rather better quality than we could only have dreamed about in October...

SaintPaulVW added 11:10 - Jul 14
Great battling performance. Looked like we could be on the edge of a thumping when we let in 2 swift goals but they dug in and you felt that MU were just out fought. Although the same result as last week, albeit with more goals, completely different feeling than after the Everton game, this draw felt like a win.

I think this was the worst I have sen KWP play out of his recent run. I agree that he was in the wrong position for both goals. He also looked lacking in confidence going forward. If he does sign on I hope Ralph can do a JWP on him. The talent is there, it just needs to be unleashed.

Will Smallbone is looking a real prospect. Every time he comes on he adds something.

Ings and Armstrong are developing quite a hardworking partnership. Redmond made better choices, Bednarek, Stephens and Romeu dug in and gave out some bite. JWP keeps earning that armband.

Unfortunately Adams still isn't quite doing it. I just hope he can get a couple more goals over the next few games to set him up for next year.

Great game for the fan and a great advert of SFC for the neutral.


stmichael added 11:35 - Jul 14
If you look at the league table SINCE the Leicester debacle we would be 6th.
This tells me we are already a top 10 team perhaps even higher.
This has been achieved over 25 games or so with Bednarek and Stephens.
Its no fluke and they deserve at least SOME credit instead of constant criticism.
I am not sure I would be looking to replace either of them.
They both have the potential to get better which is the responsibility of the coaching staff.
Personally I would be happy if they were both starting first game of next season.

Number_58 added 11:37 - Jul 14
Nick, you've been constantly moaning about Stephens and Bednarek all season. It dominates every single preview and match report you write (even when we get a great result, bizarrely). It is obviously something that obsesses you, although you seem to be ploughing a lone furrow most of the time. The defending throughout the Premier League at the moment is pretty poor; our two are certainly no worse than many others, most of whom cost tens of millions more. Why not just enjoy the moment, accept the odd mistake from our defenders, appreciate them when they play well, acknowledge the skill of the opposition when they score a great goal against us. Honestly, you'll feel much better for it.

hmmm added 12:08 - Jul 14
Still trying to work out which are the teams we should look up to that are so brilliant at defending they don't make defensive errors. Man U's defensive errors for our goals, were far worse than our mistakes that led to their goals.

Indeed nearly, if not, every goal scored is the result of a defensive error of some sort

wibbersda added 12:34 - Jul 14
Martials goals was not a result of a lapse of concentration. It was the speed and power that muscled KWP out of the way. This is going to be an issue in future as you just need a big strong forward to take KWP out of the game. Once again there were lapses particularly with JWP's back passing which invited pressure. We look very confident up until that and he needs to stop doing it. If you look at the Match stats, Saints came out on top in every department. Great result.

saintmark1976 added 12:50 - Jul 14
Nick’s myopia concerning our two regular centre backs is never going to be cured by logical counter comments from fellow posters. I’m afraid we are all just going to have to accept that just like the rest of us he’s entitled to his opinion, even though the majority consider it to be wrong. That’s the beauty of watching football I suppose. Personally I’d rather have our situation in comparison to having spent £80 million pounds on Harry Maguire. Leicester must really have seen Utd coming on that one.

TimSaint added 12:56 - Jul 14
A great result and a real battling performance.
We had more possession than United, More Shots, More Shots on Target and More Corners, yet all the pundits (apart from MLT) were giving Saints any credit.
Biased Neville wouldn't shut up about Romeu's challenge, or a few other Saints fouls, but strangely when AWB or Fernandes fouled, or even Rashford scraping down the back of Stephens calf, he didn't comment.
There was school boy defending from both sides, but that doesn't make it ok. Teams like United will always create chances regardless, so we should try to keep them to a minimum, instead of gifting them chances. JWP screwed up early on and their 1st goal was a defensive joke in that they got through 3 players before the cross came in and then once it was in the box, everyone (5 players ?) went for the ball and didn't pick up the spare men.
I thought we had scored too soon and made them angry and once they scored 2 in 3 mins, I feared that we may do what Bournemouth did up there and concede 5.
Fair play to everyone for digging in, roughing them up a bit and actually creating some good chances - as the stats show.
I thought we had spurned then chance of a point when Redmond had his shot well saved, but we battled on to the very end and got our just deserts. Chuffed for Oba and it was fitting that he scored, as RH gambled and threw him on up top for Romeu.
Maguire at the end was so funny, basically saying we shouldn't have bothered even trying to give them a game, as we had nothing to play for. £80m and he can't defend a corner !! :-)
A lot of my neutral mates said it was a really enjoyable game.
Well done lads and the target now is 54 points, to set us up for when the new season starts.

erick added 13:07 - Jul 14
People criticize our defence so much, KWP was at fault by been pulled in, but I think the error against big teams is expected. The major concern is creation of clear cut chances which I think we were poor especially the crossing.Redmond improved, I have been critical on him of late, Che position was good, first touch, hold up & pass poor. Romeu needs to work on his long range of passing(would like to see Harrison Reed in this position). Defence greatly improved.

schatfield added 13:26 - Jul 14
Solid game and great team spirit have others said, you can really see it. Doesnt look like we need PEH in the squad at all anymore, so hopefully we can move him on sooner rather than later and get KWP tied up.

Onto your report, do you think if we had Fonte and VVD in the side, Utd would not have scored those 2 goals? They were very, very good goals and I highly doubt they would have been stopped. The writer needs to realise that we have 2 very good defenders and would be hard placed to find better; we spent 18M on 1 who still sits on the sidelines. We are not a top 6 club that can spend huge amounts on a player only for them not to produce the goods, its not the soton way, we buy young and develop them or get someone from the academy. So maybe time for you to acknowledge this, stop the harping about the defense, appreciate that other teams will sometimes score goals against us, and just enjoy the game!

halftimeorange added 13:52 - Jul 14
Have to take my hat off to the commitment. I'm not an admirer to that aspect of Nathan Redmond's game but, last night he showed that he could be a really top player. The question is why do we only see flashes of his ability amongst all the bad decisions. I wasn't so disappointed in regard to KWP's performance. He was up against in-form attackers with great ability and he's barely had time to settle into our team. I'm sure he would be an asset if permanently signed. Sadly, I can't say the same about Che Adams. His performance to my eyes lacked any spark, in fact his name was barely mentioned. As for Gary Neville's obsession with Romeu's foul ( I also thought that Romeu slowed down to lessen the contact) I did wonder if the referee might have been advised at halftime to find a reason to give him a red. Sky should suggest to GN that once he has expressed his opinion he should let the matter go rather than let his prejudice dominate the remainder of his summarising. On the perennial topic of our main centre backs, none of the three potential pairings are good enough for the premier league. It's not the lack of effort or basic skills, it's carelessness and lack of positional sense which should be addressed by the coaching staff. On the other hand, there must be another Michael Svensson out there somewhere waiting to be plucked from obscurity. Like others, I only hope that the team carries this new cavalierish approach to games into next season.

60yearsandcounting added 14:04 - Jul 14
I have to agree with Nick about the defence. Badnarek is 2nd worst player in PL with errors leading to opposition goals. Stephens was back to his old self against ManU. Both are fast approaching 30 so are unlikely to improve; and neither is that leader we need at CB. Only 4 have conceded more goals. I don't think we have true PL-quality at CB or in goal.
KWP was given a bit of a run around but he is young and can learn. He was much better in the second half. Bertrand was his usual reliable self although more assistance from Redmond would have helped. The latter had 2 good plays - the chip to Stuey and defending in the corner. He is always looking for space; sadly mostly when the opposition is attacking! He should be looking for attackers.
JWP had his worst game for a while; just couldn't seem to get going. Stuey was good again but seemed to tire in the second half. Ings and Adams were short of supply up front. Danny got himself about but Che looked out of it for much of the time. Probably his first time in the type of game - and being at The Field of Dreams!!
The average number of home points earned in the PL after this last round is 28.1. We have 17. If we earned the average, an extra 11 points takes us to 56 and sixth place!

dirk_doone added 14:16 - Jul 14
Saints play an attacking style of football. In spits of that, the bottom 3 teams have all conceded more goals than us so it is unfair to say our defence is like theirs. If it weren't for that thrashing by Leicester when we were fielding a different defence, with Valery and Vestergaard, our defensive record would be similar to Chelsea's.

Fonte and van Dijk formed a world class central defensive partnership and it was probably the best Saints have had in our entire history. Few central defences will ever be that good but Stephens and Bednarek are developing into a very good partnership.

Most central defenders don't reach their peak until they are nearly 30, so young, top class central defenders are like gold dust. Maguire cost £75 million and Stones £50 million yet on recent form Stephens has looked better than both of them. His performance against Manchester City was one of the finest by any young central defender in the Premier League this season.

We have had some brilliant goals scored against us. You have to give the other team credit sometimes. But, you also have to give our defenders credit for conceding so few goals in recent weeks against top teams like Man City and Man United. Both had been scoring hatfuls of goals against other teams before they faced us.

Solskjaer loaded up his best attacking players on United's left flank to put maximum pressure on our young. inexperienced right back, Walker-Peters and it helped them score 2 goals but that was still fewer than they have scored against other teams recently and credit to Walker-Peters for sticking to his task in the second half after taking a battering.

Finally, can we have a bit more joy and celebration in our match verdicts, please? Since the lockdown, Saints have been one of the best as well as one of the most entertaining teams in the Premier League. They have been an absolute joy to watch and the manager and all of the players deserve a lot of credit for that.

dirk_doone added 14:32 - Jul 14
60 yearsandcounting, you are not very good at counting years, are you? Bednarek is 24 and Stephens 26. And you clearly don't follow Saints very closely or you would know that both of them have improved enormously this year and will continue to do so for the next few years. Fonte didn't reach his peak until he was 30

Boris1977 added 14:41 - Jul 14
Another performance to be proud of on the whole and thankfully man u took their foot off a bit after going 2-1 up. I was honestly fearing the worst after those two quick goals but saints managed the rest of the half pretty well.

The two goals were well taken and although saints did pussy foot around in the build up to both they were conceded against two of the best forward players currently in the top division.

Wei cannot see Ralph breaking up the CB partnership and despite the wish that Stephens and benderak were more consistent I think they have come into a struggling team over the past few seasons and generally got better - the results have demonstrated that. They are not the best but they have never shirked and I'm proud of the progress they have made in difficult circumstances.

Re the red card - it probably was a red, but early in the first half Maguire pushed Ings over outside the box and Maguire picked the ball up and threw it to their keeper for a goal kick. Later in the first he committed a second cynical foul and was not penalised with a yellow. So we should both have been down to 10. Swings and roundabouts.

All in all a very good night's worked based hard and focused work over the last 7 months or so.


60yearsandcounting added 14:42 - Jul 14
Dirk, I don't disagree with you in general. But I don't see any overall improvement with our 2 CBs. The serious errors are there every game - even against MC in which we were lucky although the effort was top notch from all the defence - and if we are to climb the table we need to remove those as much as we can. Of course anyone can be at fault - it's just that we are more at fault than most. Also, Jan V's stats are better than JanBad and Stephens!! Sorry, can't agree that they are a very good partnership.
I agree your comments re. KWP. He certainly didn't hide and was better in the 2nd half. He will learn and improve.
A few weeks ago I was wondering whether to renew my season ticket. Being 70 years of age and living in Yorkshire the drive down and back every couple of weeks seemed a bit excessive to watch a poor team lose! As well as the away games I was attending. But after the showing since return from lockdown I have renewed my ticket - ok, not exactly joy and celebration (after all I live in Yorkshire!!) but a demonstration of faith in the progress we are making.

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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by -
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile

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