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Thoughts from Manchester United 1-1 Southampton

Picking apart the bones of Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Southampton, questioning David Moyes' substitutions and looking at the state of the team right now.

Shaun Botterill
  • The starting line-up was brave, aggressive, and promising in many ways. Anderson, Tom Cleverley, and Ashley Young were all absent from the squad entirely. Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini comprised the midfield, while Nani and Adnan Januzaj were an excellent wing pairing. It seemed like the perfect side to shrug aside accusations of defensive-mindedness and really go for the opposition in a very winnable game.
  • The decision to take Marouane Fellaini off was the most baffling of all. His height would've surely helped defend the set-piece, and with Ryan Giggs the only other midfielder in the squad, it was pretty suicidal. It's hard to see what could've possibly prompted the decision - it certainly wasn't defensive-mindedness, but it hardly seems like a desire to score another either. Only Fellaini being hurt could possibly justify it.
  • What is galling is that this could have very easily been a great day. United played some of their best football in the season in the first half. Southampton are a good side, and played extremely well. Some games require a dash of quality to see them won, while others require reserves of spirit and determination. Either one would've worked yesterday, but United couldn't quite find either. Januzaj was unlucky to strike the post, and Rafael was denied a stone-wall penalty at the death, but the whole point of managing a club the size of United is to be good enough that such trivialities don't matter.
  • With Robin van Persie not in his best form, it's not silly to say that Adnan Januzaj is, effectively, our best player. This is terrifyingly exciting, and just simply terrifying.
  • Nani, despite being restored to his favoured right wing role, was bright but ineffective yesterday, always looking more dangerous than he actually was. An extended run in the team is probably worthwhile given our lack of options, but with Wilfried Zaha also an unused substitute (and, if pre-season is evidence to go by, an energetic and defensively-aware one), there are avenues yet unexplored.
  • Last season, United struggled in this fixture and were thoroughly outplayed by Southampton, who were then a worse side who had far more control of the game than they did yesterday. Somewhere, United, also with an inferior squad, found the reserves to pull through. This week, we didn't. The peripheries of the performance were superior in every way - the result wasn't. If there is one thing that can directly be traced to the effect of losing Alex Ferguson, that is it.