Manchester United’s difficulties in holding onto a lead continued to plague them on Saturday, when they were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Southampton. Jadon Sancho opened the scoring midway through the first half, though an excellent Saints created several golden goalscoring chances until Che Adams netted an equaliser early in the second half.
The game was open and entertaining affair — if again indicative of United’s problems in controlling matches — with former colleagues Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl facing off in what was billed before the game as a meeting between master and apprentice. Southampton set out to attack, and created a string of good opportunities in the first few minutes.
The Saints’ attacking shape caused problems for United’s defence, but also meant they were vulnerable to quick counter-attacks. Sancho continued his run of fine form on the left side of United’s attack, and he slipped Cristiano Ronaldo through after seven minutes. The Portuguese veteran rounded Fraser Forster and looked set to stroke home, only for his tame effort to be swept off the line by the recovering Romain Perraud.
Within two minutes, Southampton had squandered a clear-cut chance of their own. Kyle Walker-Peters pulled a Mohamed Elyounoussi cross back across the face of goal, though the onrushing Che Adams slipped and ended up under the ball from point-blank range. Had he managed to stay on his feet, he’d have had an easy tap-in.
The punch and counter-punch continued until midway through the first half, when United finally drew first blood. A beautiful Bruno Fernandes pass sent Marcus Rashford scampering into space on the counter, and his low cross to the back post was tapped in by Sancho. It was his first Premier League goal for United, and no less than his form has merited.
The visitors continued to threaten towards the end of the first half, but it took until early in the second for them to net an equalising goal. It came, frustratingly, just three minutes after the restart, when Elyounoussi found a pocket of space behind Paul Pogba and threaded through for Adams on the left side of the box. The angle was tight, but the Scottish international managed to wrap his foot around the ball and slot home via the far post.
Southampton were in the ascendancy, and Armando Broja soon drew a fine stop from David de Gea. Approaching the hour, United regained some of their composure, and Ronaldo and Diogo Dalot both forced saves from Forster. But it was the south coast side that continued to look more likely, and an unmarked Stuart Armstrong should have done better when he slammed a shot clean over the crossbar from the right side of the box. Minutes later, Broja slalomed clean through the United defence, but he lacked the requisite composure under pressure from De Gea.
With 10 minutes left, the United supporters broke into embarrassing chants of “attack!”; considering the problems Southampton continued to pose, one wonders whether “defend!” might have been more apposite. Broja looked particularly dangerous, and made a claim for a penalty after he was bundled over by Harry Maguire in the United box in the final couple of minutes — fortunately for the Reds, the referee wasn’t convinced.