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Premier League 2018-19: 3 takeaways from Manchester United's 2-2 draw against Southampton

Southampton hosted Manchester United at the St. Mary's stadium.
Southampton hosted Manchester United at the St. Mary's stadium.

Manchester United came into the game seven points adrift of the top four, while Southampton languished in the relegation zone. Both teams needed points for two different reasons, which promised a thrilling encounter at the St Mary's Stadium.

The first chance of the match fell to Romelu Lukaku after a mistake by the Saints' goalkeeper, but he did his best to block the Belgian's shot. It was the home side that opened the scoring after Armstrong's powerful shot flew past David De Gea on goal.

Mark Hughes's side then doubled their lead after Cedric produced an absolute gem of a free kick from just outside the box.

United got back into the game with Lukaku smashing home from Rashford's pass to reduce the deficit to half. The Red Devils were level before halftime as Herrera skillfully guided the ball into the net, again from a Rashford assist.

The onus was on Manchester United in the second half to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and get all three points, the way they did against Newcastle United earlier in the season. However, the Saints were the better side in the second 45 minutes, creating a few decent half-chances of their own.

The Red Devils never really looked in the game and were reduced to mere set pieces.

It was a frustrating evening for both the managers as they dropped points for different seasons. Here are the three takeaways from the game.


#3 A half of two halves

Lukaku scored after a long time.
Lukaku scored after a long time.

The first half was something to remember for the neutrals. Manchester United started the game in their usual slow and sluggish way, with Pogba giving away some easy passes in the midfield. It didn't take long for the home side to take the lead, and that was immediately followed by a sumptuous free-kick from Cedric Soares.

However, the big lead didn't last long as Rashford led the United comeback. He first set up Lukaku with a neat pass to reduce the deficit, and then set up Herrera for the equalizer.

It was a half which saw the momentum shift from one side to another as it progressed.

Unfortunately though, the second half was weak compared to the first, and both teams settled for a draw in the end.

#2 Disappointment for Mark Hughes

Cedric scored from a free kick
Cedric scored from a free kick

Southampton have been struggling this season, and that's mostly been down to their weak defense. Mark Hughes admitted that the team haven't been playing poorly, and that it was just a matter of time before their fortunes turned around. The Saints have also lost many points this season from a winning position, much to the dismay of the manager.

Today against United, Southampton needed points to get out of the relegation zone. At a time when Jose Mourinho's side are struggling, it looked like the best chance for the Saints to get one over the Red Devils.

With a lot at stake, Southampton started the game positively, keeping the new defensive pairing of Jones and McTominay on their toes from the very first minute. It didn't take long for the home side to break the shackles as Armstrong and Cedric gave the Saints a two-goal lead.

It looked like Mark Hughes's side were set for all three points until United came back to score two goals in the first half itself.

Southampton were the better team in the second half as well but couldn't beat David De Gea in goal on several occasions. The game was the home side's to win, but they failed to capitalize on their chances.

#1 Top Four looking further away for Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho is a frustrated figure at Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho is a frustrated figure at Manchester United.

Many fans and pundits around the world would criticize the manager for the way he set up his team against Southampton this evening. Having the likes of McTominay and Jones in the center of the defense was always going to be a big gamble. Even playing Herrera, Matic and Fellaini together takes away some of the creativity from the side.

As seen in the past, United found themselves behind in no time, and it was left to Rashford to trigger another memorable comeback. The Red Devils did reduce the two-goal deficit in the first half, but failed to go on and win in the second 45 minutes of the game.

Moreover, the second half was primarily dominated by the home side, with United reduced to chances from corners and free kicks.

Mourinho had stated before the Crystal Palace game that United had a chance to collect some points under their belt and close the gap to the top four. However, they have obtained only points obtained from the two matches out of the possible six.

If this kind of performance continues, it won't be long before the top four becomes an impossible target to achieve.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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