[Premier League] Manchester United 0-1 Southampton
Southampton: Dusan Tadic (69)
Manchester United suffered a first defeat in 12 games and surrendered third place in the Barclays Premier League after Southampton secured a shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford with Dusan Tadic's solitary strike.
The Reds controlled large chunks of the game but ultimately struggled to break down an organised Saints team that has increasingly realistic hopes of earning Champions League qualification this season.
Louis van Gaal made seven changes to the XI that started against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup third round, notably with Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind both returning from injury while Luke Shaw also lined up against his former club for the first time since joining the Reds in the summer. Midweek signing Victor Valdes took his place on the bench, although Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was absent from the matchday squad.
The visitors started brightly and almost broke the deadlock in the first minute when England international Nathaniel Clyne burst forward down the right flank to drag a low shot wide of David De Gea’s right post. United quickly regrouped and applied pressure to Fraser Forster’s goalmouth with a couple of teasing crosses, before Di Maria cut inside from the right wing to fire a powerful shot off just wide.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman had to make a switch in the 18th minute when Toby Alderweireld suffered an apparent hamstring injury, though it took two minutes to introduce Florin Gardos and United almost capitalised when Di Maria’s 20-yard strike flew wide in the meantime.
United controlled the ball in an even first half but often misplaced passes at crucial times, which allowed Southampton to counter with great power and pace. The visitors twice went close to scoring through captain Jose Fonte, whose superb aerial ability was providing continuous problems for the Reds’ back three of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Blind.
Di Maria, playing up front alongside Robin van Persie, was United’s most potent weapon in the opening 45 minutes but could have done better when sent clear by the Dutchman in the 40th minute, having chosen to chip inside to Juan Mata instead of shooting at Forster. The no.7 then flashed another effort wide to conclude a cagey first half.
Shaw, whose every touch was booed by the visiting fans, did brilliantly to block Graziano Pelle’s powerful close-range volley at the start of the second half before the in-form Saints striker headed another chance wide in the 48th minute. United responded as Jones rose high in the area to nod Wayne Rooney’s in-swinging free-kick over the bar.
United maintained control of possession in the second half but struggled to break down the Saints, who pressed with impressive speed and energy. The visitors got their reward in the 69th minute when Pelle’s shot cannoned off the post and bounced into the path of Tadic, who calmly slotted past De Gea to prompt ecstasy in the away end.
Van Gaal reacted and brought on Marouane Fellaini for Di Maria and the Reds immediately began to hit more crosses into the area. Mata went agonisingly close to converting from Blind’s lofted ball when his side-footed shot skidded wide in the 77th minute, before he latched onto another fine ball from the Dutchman to clip over the bar from close-range.
Herrera nodded a decent chance wide of goal as United pressed forward in search of a dramatic equaliser, although clear-cut chances were at a premium as Southampton held on to record a hard-fought win. The Reds must now regroup and bounce back in Saturday’s trip to QPR.
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw (Blackett, 63), Blind, Carrick, Rooney, Mata, Di Maria (Fellaini, 72), van Persie (Herrera, 60).
Unused subs: Valdes, Evans, McNair, Wilson.
Bookings: Van Persie, Carrick
Southampton: Forster, Clyne, Schneiderlin, Fonte, Davis (Reed, 80), Wanyama, Ward-Prowse, Alderweireld (Gardos, 19), Pelle, Bertrand, Elia (Tadic, 63).
Unused subs: David, Long, Isgrove, Targett.
Booking: Bertrand, Pelle