Manchester United 2 Southampton 2
Manchester United missed a golden chance to force our way into a commanding Champions League spot as Southampton hit the Reds with a late, late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.
Following weekend defeats for European place rivals Chelsea and Leicester City, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had overturned an early lead for the Saints, given to them by Stuart Armstrong.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial hit back with a goal burst inside three minutes and United headed into added-on time at Old Trafford poised for another post-lockdown victory under our belts, but down to 10 men after Brandon Williams was injured.
A leveller from Saints sub Michael Obafemi ruined the night and left the Reds one point better off but still in fifth place and level on points with Leicester. So it was a heartbreaking finale for United.
Focus on United v Southampton Gallery
You need to see these standout images from an entertaining and important match at Old Trafford.
Before kick-off, there was a minute’s silence for Jack Charlton, who died at the age of 85 last Friday. The 1966 World Cup winner and Sir Bobby’s elder brother, was Leeds United’s all-time top appearance-maker, playing 762 times for the Yorkshire club.
The match was a showdown between the two in-form sides post lockdown. The Reds had been unbeaten, including four consecutive victories, and the Saints had lost just the one match in five going into this game. It was consistent form reflected by the fact United picked the same team for the fifth Premier League game in succession, the first time in the League since 1993, and Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was able to name the same XI for the third match in a row.
It was a slow start by the Reds with Southampton in relative control but the visitors almost gifted United an opener after 10 minutes. Saints captain James Ward-Prowse was caught out and Martial homed in on goal, but goalkeeper Alex McCarthy won the one-on-one duel by sticking out his hand to make a fine save.
Southampton quickly recovered from the scare and it was Paul Pogba’s turn two minutes later to get caught, like Ward-Prowse.
After the France midfielder lost possession, Saints moved swiftly and it ended with Armstrong able to control and smash the ball past De Gea, from Nathan Redmond's cross, to make it 1-0.
Former Saints left-back Luke Shaw looked to have notched an assist after 16 minutes with a brilliantly threaded ball for Marcus Rashford. The Mancunian found the net but was rightly ruled offside. Four minutes later, he had one that counted as United levelled.
Pogba’s cross was shielded well by Martial in the box and he nudged the ball into Rashford’s path. The finish was crisp and true as the England international made it 1-1.
Three minutes later, we overturned Southampton’s early lead.
After an assist, Martial then crashed in a terrific finish as the Frenchman powered at his panicking marker Kyle Walker-Peters. It was his 50th Premier League goal for the Reds and came after simple but effective forward passes by Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
It was a devastating three-minute spell from our hitmen that finally helped United get to grips with Saints' high-pressing game, which had caused so many early problems. United had turned the tide and Pogba then had a long-range shot pushed out by McCarthy as the Reds kept up the pressure.
After a late Oriol Romeu challenge on Mason Greenwood went unpunished, Southampton managed to quell United’s burst and recover their composure to get back into the game and it became a tense but highly watchable match-up.
It remained close in the second half as well, with Nathan Redmond going close for the Saints and Rashford drilling a reply that whistled just past the post at the Stretford End.
United were struggling to get a foothold and Southampton grew in confidence and looked comfortable on the ball again.
In a bid to counter that threat, the boss brought on Fred for Pogba after 63 minutes. Rashford almost extended the Reds' lead as we put together a brilliant move but his run and one-two with Martial ended with our no. ten being thwarted from close range by Ryan Bertrand.
United were almost caught on the break after 74 minutes with Southampton launching a five-against-three counter-attack that needed a timely block from Victor Lindelof to avert danger in the Reds' box.
At that point Luke Shaw, who’d needed treatment on ankle injury, three minutes earlier, finally had to call time on his night and was replaced by Williams at left-back.
Martial intercepted a mistake by Jack Stephens and went on a long, dangerous run but couldn’t finish on this occasion and put the game beyond Southampton’s reach.
Saints sub Shane Long kept up the growing nail-biting tension when he immediately had a header saved by De Gea.
That was a relatively comfortable stop by the Spaniard, making his 400th appearance for the Reds, but he added another superb save to his back-catalogue when his airborne tip-over denied Redmond an equaliser in the 86th minute.
There was a sickening clash of heads late on between Williams and Walker-Peters that worryingly left United's left-back needed a long spell of attention before he had to be taken off and it left United finishing the match a man down.
And the Reds just couldn't hang on.
Six minutes into added time, Southampton snatched a point at the death when sub Obafemi latched onto a knock-on from Ward-Prowse's corner to poach the leveller at the far post ahead of Lindelof.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (C), Shaw (Williams 75); Matic, Pogba (Fred 63); Greenwood (James 84), Fernandes (McTominay 84), Rashford; Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Andreas, Mata, Ighalo.
Goals: Rashford 20, Martial 23
Southampton: McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand, Armstrong (Smallbone 70), Ward-Prowse (C), Romeu (Obafemi 87), Redmond, Ings, Adams (Long 63)
Subs not used: Gunn, Vestergaard, Danso, Ferry, Vokins, Hojbjerg.
Goals: Armstrong 12, Obafemi 96
Bookings: Ward-Prowse, Stephens, Walker-Peters.