Manchester United passed up a golden chance to move into the Premier League’s top four on Monday, as they conceded in the sixth minute of stoppage time in a 2-2 draw with Southampton. It was a hard-fought and even encounter, with goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial matched by those of Stuart Armstrong and Michael Obafemi.
Southampton made an enterprising start, but the first real chance was United’s. James Ward-Prowse was caught napping by Martial, though the Frenchman was denied in the ensuing one-on-one with Alex McCarthy. Two minutes later, Saints were ahead. This time the costly giveaway was Paul Pogba’s, caught deep in United’s half by Danny Ings. He offloaded to Nathan Redmond, whose chipped cross was calmly dispatched by Armstrong at the back post.
United thought they’d equalised within minutes, though Rashford was correctly adjudged to have been offside when he stroked Luke Shaw’s low cross underneath McCarthy. Solskjær’s charges looked dangerous every time they ventured forward, and with 20 minutes on the clock, they drew level. A somewhat speculative ball from Pogba was brought down brilliantly by Martial in the penalty area, who held off four defenders before offloading to Rashford at the back post. Unmarked, he made no mistake, finding the inside of McCarthy’s far post with deadly precision.
It took just three minutes for United to take the lead. It was a goal remarkable for its brilliant simplicity. Receiving the ball from Bruno Fernandes wide on the left, Martial charged down the touchline, darted inside, and smashed the ball inside McCarthy’s near post. Blame will be apportioned to Southampton right-back Kyle Walker-Peters, but there was very little anyone could have done to stop it.
After a frenetic start, the game gradually slowed to a more manageable pace. United remained in control, but as Southampton adopted a more measured attacking approach, chances became harder to come by. Early in the second half, Saints were again on top, and might have done more with a drilled Walker-Peters cross that flashed just wide of David de Gea’s far post. United almost wrapped things up on the counter-attack moments later, though a powerful Rashford shot was blocked by Ryan Bertrand from point-blank range.
With the sides separated by a single goal, United had to maintain careful defensive concentration. Only a brilliant interception by Victor Lindelöf denied Shane Long a likely tap-in with 20 minutes left. The Irishman had another glimpse of goal minutes later, though his header was comfortably held by De Gea. Rather more impressive was the Spaniard’s save to deny Redmond, when the tricky winger cut onto his right foot and tried to curl a shot into the top corner.
It took until sixth minute of stoppage time, but Southampton did finally produce an equaliser — and one they probably deserved. A lethal in-swinging corner from Ward-Prowse was flicked on by Jan Bednarek, and tapped in by Michael Obafemi, who easily had the beating of Nemanja Matić on the goalline. It was hugely frustrating, not least as United had been reduced to ten men after substitute Brandon Williams sustained a head injury with all four changes having been made. Let’s hope United don’t live to regret the dropped points come the end of the season.