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3 reasons why Manchester United drew 2-2 to Southampton

Southampton FC v Manchester United - Premier League
Southampton FC v Manchester United - Premier League

Southampton and Manchester United played out an enthralling 2-2 draw at St. Mary's on Saturday in a game that saw four goals in the space of 26 first-half minutes.

Both managers went into the game desperate for points and while Mark Hughes would be the happier of the two, Jose Mourinho cut a frustrated figure once again as his side dropped two points against a relegation-threatened outfit.

Despite the fact that Southampton were struggling for goals, they began proceedings with two stunners from in-form Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares, who scored his first ever goal in his 100th appearance in the league.

The game started at a pedestrian pace, with both sides looking to organize themselves and get a few passes going. However, the visitors saw the first chance going there way in the 4th minute when Alex McCarthy miskicked his clearance. Marcus Rashford helped it back in and the ball eventually fell to Romelu Lukaku, whose shot was smothered by the Southampton shot-stopper.

Sadly for the Red Devils, that proved to be the only real chance of the game till the half an hour mark. On the back of some fine dribbling from Nathon Redmond and vision from young Michael Obafemi, the hosts drew first blood and deservedly, took the lead as Armstrong drilled his shot past David De Gea.

Cedric then doubled his side's advantage through a sumptuous free-kick that once again, left De Gea with no chance whatsoever. United then showed their never-say-die attitude late in the first 45, as Lukaku and Herrera netted goals to put the Giants back on level terms.

The second-half began slower than the first, with the away side hogging possession and claiming control but failing to move to the last third of the pitch with conviction. Fellaini scuffed a header wide from a free-kick - a chance that went begging.

Redmond tried to wriggle past challenges and create something for the hosts, but lack of bodies in the box sucked Southampton's creativity out. The same man struck a fierce shot from over 35 yards out late on in the game and that was his team's best chance to take the lead.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg too directed a header wide in the 81st minute. Manchester United tried their level best to find a winner but was held by a packed defence. Apart from a couple of set-pieces, they barely threatened. As a result, they are now on 22 points from 14th place, already 16 behind the top of the table.

Here are three reasons why Manchester United drew to Southampton.


#3 Lapses in concentration early on the game

Fellaini's challenge on Redmond was too loose when Southampton scored their first
Fellaini's challenge on Redmond was too loose when Southampton scored their first

Not for the first time this term, we saw Manchester United unsettled at the back. Right from the first whistle, they emphasized on getting to a new shape and stitching passes together. However, they were made to work harder by an energetic Southampton midfield led by Mario Lemina, who was almost everywhere on the pitch.

Due to the slow circulation of the ball and lack of authoritativeness at the back, Mourinho's troops once again conceded two cheap goals. Take nothing away from the goals from Southampton - both of them were struck with venom, but on both occasions, the United back line had only themselves to blame.

On the back of some well-crafted play, the Saints finally took the lead off Armstrong, who now has three goals in two games. Here, the United defence was too soft as the players stood still whilst Redmond dribbled from the right flank.

The former Norwich City forward skipped past challenges and played it to Obafemi, who held it up safely and played it through to an unmarked Armstrong.

If Matic's position is viewed closely, the Serbian was at the far post all this while. Neither did he close down Armstrong, nor did he mark him while the ball was played. He just stood still and switched off.

Now, coming to Shaw and Fellaini. The former let Redmond run on the inside with aplomb and the Belgian, who's substantial frame stood right in front of the dribbler, failed to snatch the ball and clear it.

For the second, Marcus Rashford, who is still developing many aspects of his game, ridiculously conceded a dangerous foul at the edge of the box. Eventually, it was dispatched by Cedric.

Thus, due to reckless defending, indecisive moments and lapse in concentration, Manchester United again found themselves in no man's land - a situation that led to their nemesis once again.

#2 Slow and poor midfield show

Pogba was pick-pocketed many a time
Pogba was pick-pocketed many a time

To say the least, Manchester United's midfielders were outplayed.

Speaking of their defensive work first, they organized themselves when bodies were back but couldn't win the ball back enough number of times. The likes of Herrera and Fellaini, who were sent out there to frustrate the opposition, did little of what was asked.

Their pressing system yet again, was sporadic and disjointed. Either they packed one side foolishly and left channels free, or they allowed the Saints' players to roam free till the middle third of the field. This inconsistency needs to change in the coming days as well.

Apart from crowding the box and offering aerial threat, Fellaini and Herrera failed to make an impression. They often played catch up to Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who were way faster in moving the ball and shifting defence to attack. No wonder Herrera had seven tackles to his name.

Speaking of the same, Pogba's task to link up attack and defence turned out to be another mess. The Frenchman was too slow while picking a pass and as a result, was pick-pocketed many a time. He also gave away cheap fouls and let his marker run off him on a number of occasions.

Not expected of a world-class player such as him.

#1 Poor team selection by Jose Mourinho

Right now, in the middle of nowhere
Right now, in the middle of nowhere

Jose Mourinho made as many as six changes to his starting XI, a line-up that drew surprising remarks and raised many eyebrows. Yes, it is fine and absolutely correct to tinker the line-up, rotate the squad as per the demands of the fixture list and the opposition, but changing the shape is too much to ask from a bunch of individuals who are better off doing other things on the football pitch.

He opted to play Ashley Young over young Diogo Dalot, which is debatable. But, why field Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic in a three-man defence alongside Phil Jones? At least, if one of them accompanied the latter it would have made sense.

As a consequence, the back line lacked structure and a voice to sort out things, which led to the first goal where all three center-backs were on different lines. A host of central defenders were unavailable due to injury setbacks, but what about Marcos Rojo? Why not play him and let Matic shield the back line as a number 8?

Due to this shape that read as 5-3-2 on the pitch, Lukaku and Rashford had to be quick and decisive in every link-up of theirs. There was no width whatsoever, apart from the crosses that came in. No player was able to stretch the Southampton back line, especially in the second half.

Lots to think for Jose Mourinho going into the busy round of fixtures.

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Edited by Sripad
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