By Kosta Diamantopoulos
A last-gasp leveller from Southampton’s Irish youngster Michael Obafemi has left Manchester United outside of the Champions League places, and needing to win all of their last three games to be assured of a place in the top four.
While there was plenty on the line for United, their opponents sat in 12th with ostensibly essentially nothing to play for. But Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side have taken some big scalps in recent weeks, and came to Old Trafford to compete.
United began the game on the back foot, with Paul Pogba falling victim to the Saints’ trademark press. His turnover on the edge of the box led to a classy back-post cross from Nathan Redmond for Stuart Armstrong to tap it in.
While often exemplifying grace in his distribution of the ball with some lovely long passes, Pogba still frequently lost possession in key areas, resulting in either a goal or a crucial missed chance for Southampton. The divisive Frenchman continues to give his naysayers ammunition.
It didn’t take too long for Manchester United to take the game by the throat in the familiar fashion of recent weeks, as Marcus Rashford scored his 16th Premier League goal of the season from Anthony Martial’s lay off. It was an exquisite build-up to the equaliser, with a wonderful long diagonal from Pogba into the box and an even better touch from Martial on the turn.
The visitors held their structure well for the majority of the opening 45 minutes, but a lapse in concentration from Kyle Walker-Peters allowed Anthony Martial to cut inside him and take the lead with a fantastic strike, beating Alex McCarthy for power at his near post.
Manchester United continued to force attacks – as much as fans love to see it, the rushed attacking style should’ve been relaxed much earlier.
For the opening third quarter, the tempo of the game had shifted with Manchester United showing they were able to soak up some pressure from a Southampton side looking to change their fortunes for the outcome of the match.
The Saints became hungrier but there was ultimately no end product as they couldn’t break down the air-tight Manchester United defence.
After playing 5 games straight and having a rather hot and cold 63 minutes, Paul Pogba made way for Fred as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer swapped the Frenchmen for the Brazilian.
The once-again impressive Luke Shaw made way for youngster Brandon Williams due to a slight injury, only for Williams to experience a much uglier wound. Shaw’s injury appeared to be a rolled ankle, but it was Williams whose head was covered in his own blood after a rough collision with Kyle Walker-Peters, who also sought treatment. Williams’ injury left United playing with 10 men after using all 3 of their allotted substitution periods.
Nathan Redmond threatened all match, but it was his 85th minute strike that should’ve stolen the show, if not for the outstanding save made by the courageous David De Gea.
But deep into stoppage time, James Ward-Prowse’s corner was flicked on by Jan Bednarek at the near post, and teenage substitute Michael Obafemi flung an outstretched leg to flick it home from close range.
This Southampton side that was considered lucky to beat Manchester City 1-0 recently, proved again that with a better beginning to the season, they can be a top-half Premier League force.