If anything encapsulated what proved a trying afternoon for Manchester United, it was the sight of Paul Pogba being booked for a crude challenge after five minutes of second-half stoppage time, seconds after the Southampton striker Che Adams made a superb sliding tackle on Bruno Fernandes. United wiped the floor with Leeds last weekend but had to settle for a point here as Mason Greenwood struck a second-half equaliser to extend their unbeaten away league run to 27 계략, matching Arsenal’s top-flight record.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were off-colour and only showed patches of class. Southampton proved fiendish opponents, successfully shackling United’s go-to men and could have earned victory on another day. For Solskjær, the warning signs were there long before Adams’ shot beat David de Gea, via a wicked deflection off Fred, with half an hour gone.
United started sloppily, typified by Harry Maguire conceding an early corner under pressure from Adam Armstrong after Luke Shaw was forced back towards his own goal by Theo Walcott and, though United rallied to rattle the woodwork on seven minutes, through a looping Pogba header, a couple of wayward passes and sticky touches offered Southampton cause for encouragement.
The moment that led to Southampton taking the lead stemmed from Jack Stephens pickpocketing a dawdling Fernandes 25 yards from goal. Stephens looked up, played a slide-rule pass infield towards, which was worked into Adams’ feet via neat touches by Moussa Djenepo and Armstrong.
Adams fooled Maguire on the edge of the box and then blasted in, with the help of Fred’s left boot. Stephens’ challenge was deemed firm but fair by the referee Craig Pawson, much to the anger of Fernandes, whose protests earned him a booking. Perhaps this was the latest example of the officials’ light-touch approach, a commitment to let the game flow?
United were visibly frustrated but guilty of huffing and puffing in possession. By contrast, Southampton were enjoying themselves, with the 18-year-old Tino Livramento rampaging down the right flank and breezing past Fred much to the delight of the home support.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side harried and made life difficult, none more so than just before the interval when three red-and-white shirts teamed up on Shaw before Oriol Romeu fished out the ball. Soon after, Pogba sent a pass straight out of play.
United have been a puzzling team under Solskjær, one capable of oscillating from the silly to the spectacular within minutes and in the second half they displayed their more convincing side. Pogba had moments in the first half – he set Anthony Martial free with a wondrous pass with the outside of his right boot – and was evidently in the mood after the break, his foray into the box leading to the United equaliser.
Pogba, who left the pitch with four assists to his name against Leeds last week, danced inside, played a one-two with Fernandes and then Greenwood drilled the ball between the legs of the sprawling Mohammed Salisu and past McCarthy, who dived down to his left. Pogba was denied by Salisu in the first half and came close to scoring in the second. He twisted away from four Southampton shirts, cleverly swivelled inside with his right foot and dropped a shot narrowly wide with his left.
Solskjær introduced Jadon Sancho in place of Martial but it was Southampton who carried the greater threat in the closing stages. Maguire was caught cold by James Ward-Prowse 25 yards from goal and the Southampton captain found Adams, who released Armstrong through on goal. But the striker’s subsequent shot was a little tame and De Gea was able to push the ball wide. Armstrong missed another chance from the resulting corner, heading into the ground at the back post after Adams flicked the ball on.