Last weekend, I headed to Old Trafford for the second time this season. The last time I headed over, things were looking great. United were top of the league and knew that a home win over PSV Eindhoven would send them into the Last 16 of the European Cup with a game to spare.
And then it went ever so slightly wrong. An eight match winless run followed, elimination from the European Cup and falling behind in the league.
Then, a five match unbeaten run, progress in the FA Cup and everything was looking great again. Well, not quite, but it’s all relative.
I’d waited a while for this game, having booked the weekend away last July. I’d hoped (and thought) that this game would be moved by Sky to a Sunday, freeing me up to take in another game in the Greater Manchester area on the Saturday.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. On top of that, Suede were doing an instore gig at HMV at 2pm on Saturday. So that was two things I was missing out on to see United. Let’s hope it was worth it.
Not a lot was going on in the early stages, United’s best moment was a speculative long range shot from Daley Blind.
That was as good as it got for United in the first-half.
Despite not having a clear strike on goal, Southampton looked the most believable team to score, getting the ball forward and having players make runs in attacking positions.
It didn’t always come off, but if you keep doing the right things, eventually, you’ll get it right.
It should have done for Southampton when a one-two between Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic saw Sadio Mane be through on goal, but he couldn’t get the ball under his control to shoot at goal.
Half-time, 0-0. Boos rang out at Old Trafford. I can’t say booing is something i’d do. I couldn’t put up an argument against anyone who did.
When at Old Trafford, I usually head out to the concourse at half-time to watch the highlights of the first-half on the TV screens. There were none I could think of that i’d want to watch again.
As is now tradition, Social Media lit up with the stat about half-time scores at Old Trafford, all 0s barring Norwich City’s goal in December. The only people who would be excited by that would be Binary Code enthusiasts.
I’m not sure if lots of 0s and a solitary 1 is a good thing in Binary Code. It’s certainly not a good thing in football.
Things can change so easily in football. Having left the field to jeers, United returned to cheers. The first-half was forgotten about. The game was level, and there was 45 minutes to win it.
Juan Mata came on for Marouane Fellaini. Old Trafford universally approved of this.
There was a brief flurry from Untied, but it died down, and reverted back to the first-half performance. Southampton looked to have the first chance of the half from a counter attack. but where thrwarted by a clearance from Matteo Darmian to deny Shane Long, who got injured making it.
Again, more backwards passes. Old Trafford voiced it’s disapproval. There was actually one occasion when a pass backwards was booed even though it was the right decision.
However, once the player who received the ball had it, nobody ran for him. He had nowhere to play it to. Suddenly, a good pass to keep possession and build to go forward became another bad pass going backwards by a lack of forward movement.
Even when United did go forward, they would soon lose it, giving away possession cheaply. Even worse, a lot of the time, it came from their own throw ins. One incident summed up the game for United.
Morgan Schneiderlin took a quick free-kick which hit the referee and set up a Southampton attack. It was United’s best attacking move of the game, and it was for the opposition.
Frustrated by what they were seeing, United fans chanted for Adnan Januzaj to come on. Eventually he did. Soon after, there was a goal. Unfortunately, it came for Southampton, when Charlie Austin headed home from a free-kick.
87 minutes on the clock, there wasn’t a lot of time for United to strike back. In truth, if Southampton had scored in the first ten seconds, United wouldn’t have looked like getting an equaliser.
Five minutes added time was signalled for, Old Trafford roared United on with this news. It was false hope.
United’s only moment came when a Adnan Januzaj shot went wide. It looked closer than it was when you watched it in real time.
That was it, a win for Southampton. United’s feint title hopes suffered a blow, as did their top four hopes.
People will tolerate bad performances if you are getting results. People will tolerate bad results if performances suggest the results will get better.
United are having the (im)perfect storm of bad results and performances. Only one shot on goal, and it was a speculative one at that.
In terms of Old Trafford visits, i’m hoping to head over for the Bournemouth game in May, United’s last game of the season. Well, in the league, hopefully there’ll be at least one cup final after that.
It’s all the hope we’ve got at the moment.