[Premier League] Manchester United 1-1 Southampton
ManUtd: Robin van Persie (26)
Saints: Adam Lallana (89)
Manchester United were dramatically held to a home draw as Southampton grabbed a late equaliser to cancel out Robin van Persie's first-half strike.
Just one minute of normal time remained when Saints captain Adam Lallana diverted a stabbed effort from Dejan Lovren into the net at a corner. It was tough on the champions, who had hit the crossbar twice and had Adnan Januzaj’s fierce shot from 25 yards well saved by Artur Boruc.
Januzaj, the centre of attention on the day he signed a five-year United contract, was quiet until the 18-year-old helped to set up the Reds' goal on 26 minutes. Wayne Rooney latched onto the teenager’s immaculate through ball, but after Saints keeper Artur Boruc blocked the shot, van Persie was on hand, jinking to the left around the Polish international before rolling the ball into the far corner of the net. Rooney was close to doubling the lead within two minutes, rattling the crossbar with a smart shot on the turn inside the area. The Saints impressed with their passing game, and they could have scored had striker Dani Osvaldo packed more power into his close-range shot at David De Gea.
The woodwork denied van Persie in a lively spell just after the hour mark when he hit the bar with a header from a corner, and seconds later Boruc denied Januzaj the chance of another spectacular goal when he punched away the Belgian-born youngster’s long-range shot. Van Persie was inches away from touching in a Rooney cross on 72 minutes, and substitute Danny Welbeck could have put Rooney in for a chance but for a superbly-timed tackle from Morgan Schneiderlin. Mauricio Pochettino’s visitors looked increasingly threatening and De Gea had saves to make before Lallana struck. Five minutes of injury time arrived but United could not find another breakthrough in reply.
The Match: The visitors started well, looking good in possession and pressing hard when without the ball, but United gradually asserted themselves and were in the ascendant when Robin van Persie struck. The Reds looked odds-on to add to their lead in a second half that proved to be more entertaining than the first, but the late equaliser from Southampton’s captain Adam Lallana was a cruel blow, especially after the frame of the Southampton goal had been hit by Wayne Rooney and later by van Persie.
Goals: Adnan Januzaj shrugged off a quiet start to find Rooney with a superb, defence-spitting pass. The striker was blocked by keeper Artur Boruc, but the lurking Robin van Persie was on hand for a predatory strike. For the equaliser, Dejan Lovren flung out a leg at a corner, then Lallana got the faintest of touches in front of David De Gea to give the visitors a scarcely-deserved equaliser.
Star man: Januzaj showed just why the club were so keen to tie him down with a new five year contract, announced the morning before this match. Quiet early on, the Belgian picked his moment to set up the Reds goal, and he would have been on the score sheet too,only denied by a fine save from the excellent Artur Boruc.
Subplot: On this evidence, Januzaj will be a marked man now that the wider world knows what he is capable of. An early clattering from Nathaniel Clyne smacked of “welcome to the big time”, as did the huge cheer from the Old Trafford faithful when the teenager’s name was announced just before kick off. Januzaj can take it as a compliment that he received such close attention in further, card-earning challenges from Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama. The youngster can mix it as well, getting booked in a tit-for-tat spell in the second half, and he will need to take a deep breath at times despite the provocation that he will undoubtedly experience.
Opposition: Mauricio Pochettino’s side started confidently, passing the ball smoothly and getting into shape nicely, flooding the midfield when United had the ball. Overall they looked to be lacking a cutting edge, making their equalizer all the more galling for the Reds. But on this evidence the south coast outfit will be a thorn in a few sides this season.
Move of the match: The sublime pass from Januzaj to Rooney showed off the teenager’s talents, and van Persie kept a cool head with Saints defenders desperately trying to deny him.
In the stands: The way United supporters rose from their seats when Januzaj received the ball speaks volumes for the impact the 18-year-old has already made. The reaction of the visiting fans to their shock late equalizer was equally telling; prior to that their side had barely tested De Gea, and they left Old Trafford grateful for a point from their late smash-and-grab raid.