How does £75 million go about paying for itself? Three points at a time. Romelu Lukaku’s goal made the difference as Manchester United defeated Southampton with a nervy performance from the visitors. The result leaves United level with Manchester City at the top of the table. Both teams have 16 points, but City have the better goal difference. Meanwhile, Southampton continue to sit in midtable.
FIRST HALF: LUKAKU CAN’T BE STOPPED
Manchester United swaggered into this match with their usual confidence and quality all over the pitch. And although Southampton looked to be a side that could stand equal to the visitors, it only took 20 minutes for United to change that.
Ashley Young did well to advance the ball down the left flank before delivering a dangerous cross into the heart of the penalty area. Lukaku rose highest to meet the ball and direct it towards Fraser Forster.
The Southampton goalkeeper made a superb save to keep the initial effort out, but the ball happened to land right in front of the Belgian striker. His persistence allowed him to score with his second attempt, putting the visitors in the lead.
SECOND HALF: CHANCES FOR BOTH SIDES
Southampton tried to hit back in the second half in an attempt to salvage a result from the match. Although Manchester United tried to score another goal to put the match to bed, they found it difficult to maintain possession and develop a rhythm in possession.
Chances came to the likes of Long and Romeu due to the creative efforts of Redmond, who was one of Southampton’s best attacking players on the day.
Meanwhile, United attempted to score on the counter while protecting their lead, with Lukaku and Rashford both missing good chances to double their advantage.
However, neither team was able to make a key difference in the end, so Manchester United ran out as narrow winners to keep their title challenge alive.
MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGE TO WIN UGLY
This match showed that even when Manchester United are faced with difficult opposition away from home, they possess the quality to still leave with a positive result. Is that the mark of champions? Or a sign of shaky times to come? It remains to be seen, but United supporters will hope that the likes of Lukaku can keep salvaging results for the Red Devils.
City supporters may prefer to hope for a downward spiral for United, on the other hand, with City staying close in the title race but with much stronger results.
Southampton will be proud of their performance today, but disappointed with all of the missed chances. The club currently sit in 11th place, so the results must come soon if they are to return to European places.
• Possession: Southampton 60% Manchester United 40%
• Corners: Southampton 8 Manchester United 4
• Shots: Southampton 14 Manchester United 9
• Shots on Target: Southampton 4 Manchester United 4
• Fouls: Southampton 12 Manchester United 9