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Saints At Manchester United The Verdict
Sunday, 31st Dec 2017 10:17

A real turn up for the books as a Saints side that was far from being described as first choice, put in a great display to earn a point at Old Trafford and deserve all three more than the home side itself.

If you look at the 11 Saints players that started this game the first thought would be that this was a reserve side, I would suggest that a few months ago 8 possibly 9 of this side were not first choice in any shape or form, only Wesley Hoedt and Oriol Romeu and possibly Dusan Tadic would have been seen as starters and at times even they weren't picked by Mauricio Pellegrino and here lies the problem.

But now the manager was as one of his predecessors liked to say, down to the bare bones and therefore he did not have a lot of choice but to put out the side he did, I said in the preview that we would either see a complete lack of spirit or a revival and we saw the latter.

The real surprise in the starting line up was Alex McCarthy in goal, this was needed in the fact that Forster needs to be removed from the front line, McCartyh put in a decent performance but it should be noted that he was well protected by those in front of him, United managed only three shots on target all straight at the keeper, McCarthy had a decent game and did all that was expected, but the difference in this game was the resolute defending that made sure that United never got clear chances unlike Spurs a few days earlier who puleld the defence to shreds.

This was all about spirit, the back four had three players in it who over the past couple of seasons have been mainly reserves when everyone is fit, the midfield full of players who have not been consistent or ignored and Shane Long up front who could not even get on the bench a few weeks ago.

But they put in a great performance and earned a much needed point, the real question though is did they put in this display for the manager or for themselves !

It is hard to pick a man of the match, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg was a big contender he and Oriol Romeu worked hard in the midfield, another who impressed me was Sofiane Boufal for his willingness to take the game to United to run at them and try and create chances, although this was a difficult task it meant that we did push them back and we kept the ball for longer periods rather than just give it them back and invite pressure on us.

But there was not a player out there who came off the field not having put in a shift, if we had done that at Spurs, I'm not saying the result would have been different but at least we could have held our heads up, we can say that after this game.

This shows that Saints do have strength in depth and in the New Year with everyone fit and at least two good signings we should be more than capable of clmbing the table, the question though is whether the board feel that Mauricio Pellegrino is the man to take us forward or whether they feel that the fact that we are in this mess is completely down to the manager, this will emerge in the next few days.

But in the meantime Saints fans can all be proud of this display and take hope that we can come through a tricky period stronger than before.

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schatfield added 10:52 - Dec 31
Very good write up. I was v surprised to see foster dropped but it sent the right message. And when utd had a free kick against us at one point for once I didn't feel like it was a sure thing they would score. Have to say Hoedt played v well too as did boufal and Pierre. Long was inches away from getting a goal. Good display

saintmark1976 added 10:58 - Dec 31
A good balanced report Nick. Let's hope that yesterday was a turning point.

On topic it must be said that their manager is without doubt the epitome of why most genuine football fans have no time for the club he represents. They certainly deserve each other at present.

Finally may I wish you and all Saints world wide fans a happy and prosperous new year.


brownk added 11:00 - Dec 31
Not sure we needed to go into were the players playing for themselves, the manger or the team. Players have to do all 3 in whatever circumstance, so no negative spins in what was an excellent performance! The supporters were brilliant too and played their part and didn't stop singing throughout!

Nomaesaints added 11:06 - Dec 31
I don’t know why some people are surprised that Forester was dropped as he has been
too inconsistent . Take for example Spurs first goal, all he had to do was
put his arms and collect the ball!

Very pleased with yesterday’s performance and Shane was unlucky with
the chance he got. Holberg had another excellent game and Boufal starting to
show what he is capable of.

Jesus_02 added 11:12 - Dec 31
Goal keeping is not all about saves, McCarthy came for the ball well as well as making the saves The team also defended as a team, a little more confidence and I think we could have nicked this.

The real test will be maintain the same level against a Palace team that may be happier with a draw. So far so good.

helpineedsomebody added 11:12 - Dec 31
goals win games
not 8 defenders behind the ball
well done saints & for once nick a good verdict

halftimeorange added 11:23 - Dec 31
In Hojbjerg we surely have a captain in the making. It was pleasing to see McQueen start but I thought Targett, although very one-footed, was arguably our best performer at Spurs so, why was he benched. He can't be tired.I also question the use of Stephens at RB when we have a player for that postion in Pied. Stephens put in a shift and his height helped but Pied has more pace and can cross. All in all, though, whether they played for the manager, themselves or, dare I venture, the fans, they all put in a decent shift.

MySaintedAunt added 11:29 - Dec 31
I wonder how much the mood in the camp has changed now that VVD has finally gone. I can only speculate, but that situation dragging on must have had an effect. Give MP his due, he had that situation to deal with from day, as well as the lack of investment up front.

LondonSaint added 11:37 - Dec 31
Great performance from all involved. Say what you like about Pellegrino (and I'm far from convinced) but he keeps hanging on in there.

I'd like to see that same 11 start the next game and see what they can do in a match we should be winning. Let's reward their good performance rather than punish them with a subs bench place.

TeamCortese added 11:41 - Dec 31
I for one am very shocked by the result given Nick's recent assessment of our defence being Championship quality. If we put things into perspective our defence held a Man Utd team (worth over £200 million) at Old Trafford. I don't care if Man Utd are having a poor run of form that isn't easy to do. Of course this wasn't just down to the defence Hojbjerg and Romeu did an excellent job as well. However, Yoshida, Hoedt and Stephens showed an excellent reading of the game when stifling Man United's attacks.

Another thing I'd like to say is if you look at the performance of our defenders statistically (based off the number of appearances) Yoshida has the highest ranking defensively behind VVD.

This goes to show many misconceptions in what Yoshida brings to the team. I would continue him, Hoedt and Stephens as a back three and put him ahead of Davis for captaincy.

the_saint added 11:43 - Dec 31
Saints boys done well but Tuesday is a massive game if we do not win this then all the hard work at Utd will be undone as for mcarthy he came out and claimed the ball near the penalty spot wow I was beginning to think goalkeepers weren’t suppose to come out of their 6 yard area. Got to start Tuesday.

highfield49 added 11:57 - Dec 31
As has already been pointed out by Jesus_02 McCarthy was willing to come off his line and regardless of whether he actually got to the ball prevented the opposition getting a free head or shot on goal. Considering he hasn't played in a league match and being chucked in at the deep end in front of 75,000 people he must be given a run in the team. Lots of positives to take from this performance and I do wonder if Targett is being moved on to pastures new in the next few days. Rumours have suggested that he might go to Fulham as part of a deal to bring in Sessegnon which would be a massive signing if it were true. It really doesn't look as though Gabbi is going to be around much longer either because if the selection is down to the bare bones and he still can't start the match then his future seems to be elsewhere. Essential result considering Swansea, Bournemouth and others picked up points. More of the same and some quality new faces coming in will see us clear of trouble in the coming weeks. More than a hint in this performance that VVD was a festering sore that needed surgery.

the_saint added 12:17 - Dec 31
Off the topic last four twitter accounts Sturridge following are Walcott Bertie redmond and Romeu looks positive on Sturridge and Theo

Boris1977 added 12:18 - Dec 31
Very good points above (Jesus and halftime orange) and cheers nick of course. Really impressed by our constantly vocal fans travelling up north for a game at a ridiculous time - made me proud and reminded me what a brilliant support and club we have.

Great to see a keeper coming out for the ball and getting down well and getting his body behind the ball to avoid embarrassing errors.

Don't want to reiterate all the positives above but hojberg was immense and the back 4 were generally solid.

This was on paper a tricky game but saints played it cautiously and grew into the game and with more confidence would have finished Manu off.

A few recurring gripes boufal is our most naturally gifted footballer but holds onto the ball too long, correct that and we'll get so many more chances per game, we were lucky at least 3 times where utd players were unmarked 6 yards out but fluffed their lines and we were slow to react to the second ball on too many occasions putting us under pressure.

On the bright side though the quick first time passing almost lead to Shane long scoring a great goal and someone did actually try a through ball to Gabbi through the middle which almost came off.

Yesterday restored so much faith and the team looked up for it and put in a great shift but my people of the match were our fans who kept the faith and out sung and made themselves heard which played a massive part in the performance yesterday. Happy new year everyone

ExiledSupporter added 12:45 - Dec 31
The fundamental problem that we have had since the end of our first season back in the premiereship is not the unceasing sale and purchase of players, not defensive tactics, not injuries, not loss of form, not even demotivated players, nor even idiosyncratic selections, nor low morale. Although sadly and/or frustratingly all of these have been apparent in the last couple of seasons.
No…it has been our total inability to attract and retain high quality managers.
And why is this… because we continuously demonstrate both our lack of ambition and mystifying reluctance to pay managers of proven quality enough to attract and then retain them. This is a toxic combination and one that we can only change when we recognise that high quality managers (those with proven track records, obvious leadership talents, tactical sophistication and authority) should be our primary objective. Talented players are always important, but our priority should be to recruit excellent managers and we can only successfully do that by displaying our real ambition and our determination not to always sell core elements of the team and thereby undermining any manager’s ability to develop a team that can compete.
Not doing so relegates us to bringing in promising but sometimes insufficiently experienced players and a lack of continuity, ”senior” managers interpret this as making their jobs more hazardous and are reluctant to join or stay. Then we end up recruiting managers who, because they have had limited but not consistent success, perhaps not experienced in the English leagues but, arguably, with potential. These are riskier appointments, but are less expensive and that no doubt in Reed’s mind, endorsed or required by Krueger et al, makes the ‘gamble’ worthwhile.
MP1 was an example of a successful gamble and MP2 looks to be an example of the other end of the spectrum.
My last point is that the process relationship between the roles of Dir. of Football (Reed) and the Head Coach/Manager seems to fluctuate according to the relative power of each incumbent; so for instance currently Reed seems to have overall control over the recruitment or otherwise of players and MP2 appears to have little say. This seems apparent in the way that MP2 seems to be reluctant to select and even endorse the arrival of new players that Reed has decided upon. During Koeman’s tenure the balance seemed very different, RK appeared to introduce players that we were not ‘watching’ eg Pelle and Tadic, urged the purchase of Mane and Clasie and I suspect may have vetoed others who we never saw. This was because RK was a far more experienced and by and large more sophisticated tactician and respected manager than MP2. And he probably would not have joined up if he had not had at least this measure of say in these crucial decisions. Puel was probably somewhere in the middle of this continuum
The point is that it is unhealthy for Reed to be able to ‘select’ the shortlisted managers when he has a personal and vested interest in recruiting less substantial talents to fill a more constrained head coach role. Let me just say that I do think , despite these reservations that Reed has been mainly very successful in recent years in terms of the players recruited including for instance Hoedt, Lemina and especially Boufal (though I think Puel played a large part in bringing the latter here).
So before we spend a large chunk of the VVD money on desperately needed new blood, for me in the forwards and midfield, much more than the defence, we should think very carefully about the risks of continuing with MP2, the sort of leading coach/manager we want and the sort of formation which will be the optimum for our desired outcomes.

Consigliere added 13:44 - Dec 31
When you are in a relegation dogfight - and we are - it is vital to pick up any scraps you can. Yesterday was quite a big scrap and a very welcome one, and reiterates the point I have made before that 11 hard-working players working as a team can hold off 11superstars playing as individuals. As others have speculated, the VVD sage may well have infected the team but what I suspect has happened is that there has been a collective realisation that we are heading out of the league unless everyone pulls together. If that lesson has been learned, and I surely hope that it has on the evidence of the fighting spirit shown at Man U, then we ought to survive. If it is quickly forgotten then we won't survive, and what's more, we won't deserve to.

SaintBrock added 16:03 - Dec 31
I don't buy into all this VVD negativity nonsense that many seem to think was the main reason for an up tick in our performance yesterday. All clubs have ups and downs, good days and bad days and all that happened yesterday was that we had a good day when most players were on it whilst most of the Main U players had poor days.

Why we had a good day is probably better explained by the inclusion of several players who usually don't get to start and needed to show the manager what they can do and some others who may have a nervous eye on the transfer window, wondering if the club might dispense with their services to free up cash to bring in better players. It was really all about snapping a good many of them out of their complacency and comfort zones and not before time too.

It is also unlikely the risk of The Drop has much impact on their psyche as for most it would mean only leaving Saints to find another Premier League club who no doubt would be eager to snap them up.

Swallows and Summers come to mind but we will find out soon enough if this was just a freak result or not.

Consigliere added 17:47 - Dec 31
Yes, I agree Saint Brock that the club goes down, not the players, nevertheless being part of a team that goes down still devalues a player's worth and makes it harder for him to get a safe berth elsewhere so to this extent I think that my point still holds good.

BoondockSaint added 00:28 - Jan 1
Really played like a team, however, we were all saying that after the Arsenal game. so still nervous.

The goal keeping job has to be McCarthy's. What a difference he would have made in previous games.

SaintBrock added 10:15 - Jan 1
"being part of a team that goes down still devalues a player's worth and makes it harder for him to get a safe berth elsewhere so to this extent I think that my point still holds good".

...and yet we signed a first team coach of a team that was relegated?

Maybe you're right 'though as he would certainly have matched our First condition for hiring which ie Is he Cheap?

IanRC added 14:41 - Jan 1
Thought JWP had an excellent game though I doubt it will silence his critics on here. All round though a great team performance, shame De Gea's foot stretched so far.

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