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Southampton 1 v 1 Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 22nd August 2021 Kick-off 14:00
Southampton V Manchester United The Verdict
Monday, 23rd Aug 2021 09:55

This day did not start well, firstly the news that the team was unchanged from Everton was not good news, then the fiasco outside the stadium, but by 4pm we had seen a pulsating game in which Saints had dug in and fought for every ball backed by a passionate home crowd.

I have to say that at 1pm the mood of every Saints fans in the bar I was in pre match was not good, there was not one person who would have picked the side that Ralph Hasenhuttl had chosen and many were perplexed at why he had made these selections on the walk to the stadium.

The moods were not helped upon arrival at the stadium to find thousands still queueing around the block and chaos all around with no guidance as to what queue was what, however I will deal with that in a separate article and not dwell on it here too much.

It was surreal to be in the stadium at kick off time and see thousands of empty spaces and knowing that there must have been around 5,000 people still trying to get in, why the game was not delayed I don't know.

But perhaps this adversity stirred the crowd and it certainly created an atmosphere that hasn't been seen at St Mary's in a long time even accounting for lock down.

Saints started well but almost went behind but after a goal line scramble managed to clear the ball, the longer the game went on the more composed Saints looked to be and the crowd seemed to sense that there could be a result here, on the half hour mark they started to believe that when Che Adams fired home from just outside the box, the goal seems to have been given to Fred as an own goal, but that is harsh on Adams.

After the break United came at us and just as we looked to have weathered the storm they equalised, should the keeper have done better, yes it came through a player or two, but a Premier League goalkeeper should be stopping these.

From then on it was going to be tough and it was, United enjoyed plenty of possession and at times looked to be swamping us, but sheer work rate carried us through, United had all the fancy flicks, all the step overs and the showboating, but we had pure guts and a crowd that seemed to be devoid of all the moaners of last season and just full of those who supported the team, better 23,000 Saints fans in the stadium backing the team than 28,000 with 5,000 whose only vocal support in a match is "Oh No Saints" and where every wrong pass is greeted by groans.

I'm sorry if some won't like that remark, I suspect they weren't in St Mary's on Sunday if they do, but Sunday was one of those matches where every Saints supporter seemed to be behind the team and willing it on, perhaps it was the pent up anger at the chaos outside the ground, perhaps it was the response to the Manchester United supporters who were in fine voice, whatever it was the atmosphere was great and one that spurred the team on rather than got on their backs.

The Northam End were magnificent and so where the Itchen North and there enthusiasm washed around the ground.

A point was a good result, but we although United had more chances in the second half, we had the better ones to win it, none more than Adam Armstrong who was put through by Che Adams, he got a good shot away well saved by De Gea but we should have gone ahead there.

So what of the four changes that should have been made in the side and those that should have been replaced.

In goal without making an obvious error Alex McCarthy did not look confident, too often he came for a ball and stopped, not errors but it left him out of position, not least on that first half goal mouth scramble, take a look at the replay and you will see what I mean.

His handling was not great, he didn't deal well with another shot low to his left and pushed the ball in front of him creating another goal mouth scramble and on the goal the ball went right under him, perhaps not a mistake, but these are the one that you expect your keeper to stop.

He is not a keeper in form, he is lacking confidence and with due respect to him he knows it himself ,he is coming out for things that he shouldn't do and staying rooted for thigs he should, his decision making at the moment is suspect.

We have two choices we either hope he plays through it or we replace him.

In the centre of defence, should Bednarek have played before Jack Stephens ? The answer is on the evidence from Everton absolutely, but top marks to Stephens, he had a decent game and justified Ralph's decision, a good tactical change at half time also helped give us a little more strength at the back when Bednarek came on for Walcott at half time.

Tino Livramento had another good game at right back, but I still felt that Kyle Walker Peters should have played with Livramento at right midfield, the new signing from Chelsea is worth his place in the team, just not at the expense of KWP who showed why he is the best full back at the club in the final 10 minutes when a cool head who can win the ball and keep it was needed.

Lastly Stuart Armstrong, he was not even on the bench, which asks the question was he injured or is there something else going on.

Ralph said he had no injuries in his press conference on Friday, but then again he would say that , you don't show your hand, so was Armstrong injured or is it "something else" at the moment we can only speculate.

Overall this was a great day out, the prediction was this would be another day of disaster, another game with the team booed off by those still in the ground after a heavy defeat against a United side who had slaughtered Leeds and would do the same as us.

But this was one of those days we got to football for, when we remember it is meant to be about enjoyment, for me enjoyment at football is not about sitting in my seat wallowing in misery and self pity and predicting doom and gloom at any moment, it is about seeing my team compete, getting behind it and enjoying a game of football.

Sunday showed that we are not the certain relegation candidates that too many of our supporters seem to predict, this harked back to the first half of last season where we topped the League, yes we are missing Danny Ings and we are yet to find out whether Adam Armstrong can replace him, but the early signs are that he can and the squad has more depth than it did a year ago.

There are more things to be optimistic about than a year ago, we aren't going to win the League, probably not even get into the top 7, but we can finish somewhere between 8th and 17th and make it a good season.

Photo: Action Images

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IanRC added 10:38 - Aug 23
Agree entirely Nick. Was horrified at the team selection but most were good decisions. The exceptions being McCarthy and the ineffectual Walcott, not sure I heard his name in commentary at all. Do hope Stuart Armstrong gets a chance soon, possibly Wednesday but Djenepo and Tino will be hard to displace and JWP and Oriel are nailed on.

ExiledSupporter added 10:40 - Aug 23
Yes, very fair report.

But we need to better understand what is going on in Ralf's head.

It's blatantly obvious to almost everyone that Forster is far better than McCarthy, so why does RH keep making this curious decision. McCarthy looks nervous, he makes the fans nervous, he must scare his defender's s**tless. So on what rationale does he choose him. Has it anything to do with the many goalkeepers he has on the staff?

The second question is about Walcott, lovely man etc but doesn't seem to represent any sort of serious threat. Negligible involvement in the first half, great improvement in the team's shape when he didn't reappear. Can't understand why we have taken him on at all.

Any explanations about why no Bednarek from the start, he's our best central defender even if he does lack a little pace. What's Ralf thinking there, is he still giving him rest time from the Euros?

Ralf needs to explain himself, since none of the supporters have a clue about what his decisions are based on. What does he see in training that persuades him to make these odd selections.

If he was happy with the side that lost it in the second half against Everton, so didn't change the side for yesterday's game, what will he make of the performance against ManU - presumably that will have cemented McCarthy's first choice status? Madness

I heard that Stu Armstrong was injured, he's such a key player for us that I hope there is no other underlying reason for his non appearance; his departure would be very hard to bear!

WestSussexSaint added 10:43 - Aug 23
Decent write up and I agree with most of it. Like you I was surprised the line up hadn’t changed from Everton but clearly Ralph had seen enough in training to know the players were up for it.

I actually think McCarthy was better than you mentioned. The goal was a tricky one because Greenwood scuffed it which deceived McCarthy on the timing. He also go a few decent punches in on crosses once he had got used to Pogba standing on his toes at free kicks and corners. That said it haven’t seen anything in the first two matches and preseason to change my mind that currently Forster is the better keeper.

Of the others, I agree Stephens had a decent match. He is still prone to errors as demonstrated by trying to dribble the ball out of defence at the end of the first half and promptly losing it when a decent clearance was needed. I don’t think Stephens will ever have the level of skill to be a first choice for us but you cannot deny his commitment to the cause and it was a great tackle on Fernandes to set up the goal (regardless of what Ole thinks).

Djenepo ran his socks off but still over complicates things in the final third and Walcott was equally ineffective in an attacking sense although did give Livramento decent support defending when Man U were on top in the first 25 mins.

A call out for Livramento who looks like the real deal at the moment and on that performance it is hard to see KWP getting his place back any time soon.

I can only think that Saints have some contractual thing that means they can only play one Armstrong because I think Stuart would have been perfect to open up an average Man U defence to give Adam and Adams more chances.

Finally credit to the manager for mixing things up at half time going 3 at the back. In some respects it may have contributed to the equaliser as the players spent the first 10 mins getting up to speed but Saints definitely finished the stronger which is rarer than Fernandes staying on his feet.

Overall a decent performance and deserved point. Let’s hope we can sustain the intensity for “lesser” teams like Newcastle next. It’s good to be back!

Boris1977 added 10:51 - Aug 23
A massive and pleasant surprise. Ralph will continue to surprise and confuse which is fine if we avoid defeat but not so good if we lose. There seems to be too much dependency on fortune with Ralph which means consistency is left to chance rather than controling the controllables.

One thing for sure is it certainly isn't going to be a dull season.

SaintPaulVW added 11:04 - Aug 23
Good write up. I agree with most of the points expressed.

Barring injuries we now have several formations that we can use. Hopefully Ralph will switch between these to be able to manage the games better than last season, and even last week!

Great performance from everyone, although Romeu still doesn't look 100%. All 3 subs were excellent and KWP showed his class in his bit part on the left.

It wasn't an own goal and it wasn't a foul on BF.

In some ways, Stephens is becoming like Benali - a hard worker who gives a sh*t. They are good players to have in your squad.



Kenm added 11:11 - Aug 23
Saints put on a very good showing, I have liked Mccarthy but Sunday he looked very lost ?, next prem game drop him. If Manu had walked all over us I woundn't have given us a chance of getting passed Newton

Kenm added 11:13 - Aug 23
sorry made a mistake Nerwport

AndyD added 12:17 - Aug 23
I thoroughly enjoyed the game having feared the worst. I thought all the players had a good game - Walcott covered well & still has his pace. Good substitution at half time as this has going to be the pressure period although United did score we more than help our own. I cant understander some of these managers complaining about too physical tackles, do they just want us to stand and off & admire their skills, I think not! In the next few games perhaps we can be more optimistic.

Farlow added 12:56 - Aug 23
A very welcome point,Che should be credited with the goal.
Ralph got his subs right for a change and gave them time to work.
Without a dominant Centre Half it would be folly to play Forster
in place of Mcarthy.Alex is far better with crosses.Also i dont think
its good man management to not know who is the No.1.

Colburn added 13:12 - Aug 23
Pot, kettle, black.... The serial moaners? Like your serial moaning about Jack Stephens and when he has an absolutely immense game, you suggest it was just a decent game.
Make NO bones about it, our passion and determination and indeed the fight was started by Jack, getting angry with the ref, sticking up for the club he loves and even a fan of another club I watched the game with commented on this and how he got the team going.. Very poor summary of his performance by this site as usual.. That is why Bednarek started on the bench, because Stephens is obviously showing what he can do. Maybe you should stop moaning about Stephens and credit him properly when he is as immense as yesterday. Dean Hammond also picked him out as motm. But you can dine out on his one mistake at Everton for the rest of the season..... Shame... You were starting to do so well Nick!

schatfield added 13:13 - Aug 23
Stephens man of the match, so all you haters just give him a chance and some backing for once. Clearly the manager rates him. Same with our goalie - rather than moan about him, just back him. Our attack is good, 1st 2 games and both have been equally involved. We just had a draw with a squad worth something like 600 million......pretty good really!!

Colburn added 13:19 - Aug 23
P. S. Man utd fan after the game 'Stephens was a beast!'
Just saying...

PezzaSaint added 13:30 - Aug 23
I’ve been critical of Ralph and how he always seems to get out thought by opposition managers, but yesterday was different and so credit to him. He completely changed the side’s shape at half time, going from a back 4 to a 3/5. Utd score a lot of late goals, but yesterday it was pretty even going into the last 10 or so minutes. I thought we were parking the bus when I saw the change at half time, but we still managed to play a bit also and did have the Armstrong chance to win it!

halftimeorange added 13:35 - Aug 23
After such a positive performance it seems churlish to dwell on the negatives however, these are the things that need to be tweaked to make positive nearer perfect. McCarthy did flap at crosses and might have stopped Greenwood's shot but, his kicking was improved and he didn't faff around passing it short within the penalty area. Stephens had a decent game but, he did needlessly pass the ball back across the penalty area three times when there was an outlet on the wing. There might have been unwelcome Man U interceptions. Romeu didn't quite look on his game and lost or gave the ball away on a few occasions. Walcott was, as has universally been pointed out, totally ineffective for 45 minutes. Surely Tella could replace him. Djenepo must hold the record for the number of step overs when on the ball and did cause some problems but, also runs around in circles in the style of Fabrice Fernandes. I heard Stuart Armstrong pulled a muscle in training. Man U were frightened by the other Armstrong's pace. Salisu was outstanding and all the rest good or better. On this showing we can relax a little. Like many others I had to waste three hours of my time to pick up a ticket on Saturday. My ST arrived this morning.

davidargyll added 14:28 - Aug 23
I know I am not alone in commenting that, when I saw an unchanged starting sheet, I was more bemused than anything else, thinking that maybe there was an injury/COVID problem in the camp, rather like Arsenal the previous weekend, and everyone was keeping quiet about it. Why oh why had he not started SA, KWP etc? 90 minutes later and I am starting to think that Ralph Hassenhuttl is nothing less than a genius!
My (his?) logic goes as follows: first outing of the season and the team plays well for H1, and falls apart in H2; midweek, RH gives them the hair dryer treatment, tells them they should/can/must play better or else they will be permanently on the bench, taking the view that, the more they play together, the better they will be. And Hey presto they do! And what is more, he reads the game brilliantly, seeing that Walcott is crap and subs him at half-time, ALTERS THE SYSTEM TO PLAY 4 3 3 and then makes two more subs in time for all three of them to make a difference. And blow me we keep those arrogant so and so’s Man U at bay.
And my goodness what a pulsating match it was. Everybody played their part and showed improvement on the Everton debacle, TW excepted and I guess AM who was just about ok but very lucky. But I don’t want to pick out other individuals as contributors have already mentioned all the obvious candidates, suffice to say, everyone had their moments.
Now I know one swallow etc, but whereas I really thought that the Board was managing the team and the preseason buys/sells in preparation for a drop to the Championship, if yesterday was anything to go by, I really think we could be in for something rather better.
PS and didn’t RH dress up so much better than the slovenly OGS? Spoke volumes…
PPS if Tino was 5th choice at Chelsea, what can the other 4 better than him be like…?!

KriSaint added 16:44 - Aug 23
Well performed Saints. No real saves from McCarthy and we get a 1-1 and could have scored 3. Bednarek on from the second half must mean that Ralph reads the comments in this forum about his reluctance to adjust things in his team to protect a lead.
Romeu is still not up to full fitness and still looked like half his best.
Livra, Stephens, JWP, Perraud, Adams and Salisu were our best players today. KWP played his big part in seeing the game out without Man.U. getting a single chance to score another goal.

Pogba, Fernandes and Maguire are and will always be irritating, cheating boys to play against. Fernandes almost cried for feeling unlawfully dispossessed in the build up to our goal. He also threw himself to the ground for feeling 100 % innocent when he kicked both legs of Perraud in a counter. Maguire made the biggest free kick of the match when taking a yellow to stop JWP getting into the box and then tried to con the ref. to take the ballat least 5 yards back from where the freekick took place. (He knows JWP is the best dead ball specialist in the league but still very unfair behaviour).
Pogba just looked arrogant through 96 minutes.
6 Minutes of extra time must have been because Alex F*ck-*ff-son was present at St. Mary's. The ref. could have gifted Man. U. 10 extra minutes and they wouldn't have scored. Saints saw the game out that well.

ElijahK added 18:40 - Aug 23
You know what, fair play to Ralph today! As everyone was criticising his team selection and tactics etc before the game, but he got a decent point and it was a decent game. As no one on here would’ve rejected a point against Man U before KO, and I’m sure most Saints to fans would’ve taken a point at halftime seeing how often we drop the lead.

Tactics wise he was decent especially with the subs as other than maybe bringing on Tella I wouldn’t have done anything differently myself, and the fact that towards those last 20 minutes we really did push forward and actually had a few decent chances (although I’m very gobsmacked/annoyed that Armstrong didn’t score ether of them). Selection wise, well I think everyone had a really decent game, especially Stephens who showed today of why he got picked, and other than maybe McCarthy (who was actually decent today but maybe could’ve done better for their goal, but so could have Salisu, as he did pull of some decent save with that header and a few more, throughout the game), everyone in that starting 11 and subs performed really well.
As at the end of the day, most of us wouldn’t probably only expected 1 or 0 points out of the first 2 games of the season and we got that point, it sure was a decent result

KriSaint added 18:44 - Aug 23
Oh, and I forgot Pogbas and Fernandes' ridiculous "hand ball"-penalty-claim-screaming in the second minute of the second half, when Pogba, near the penalty spot, volleyed Wan-Bissakas pass onto the left part of Salisus chest and - naturally positioned - left arm. There you go. Who else than those two - representing the team with most awarded penalties of all time - tried to steal a penalty - and the thing is - they do it much more pathetically than other players, who try to steal a penalty. I'm sorry, but I just can't stand them.

felly1 added 19:30 - Aug 23
Lovely to be back to a nearly full stadium and to watch a decent game where every player for Saints put in a shift.
The last half hour the crowd got behind the team after being relatively quiet compared to the Man Utd fans which is often the case and it definitely lifted the players.
To be honest I still feel we will struggle this season, not necessarily get relegated but a struggle nevertheless. I hope we stick with Ralph because I feel he's the best fit for us. Smallish Prem club, limited player spend but a fan base that wants attractive football.
He has clearly a strong enough personality to pick what he considers is the best team and not be swayed by thefans .

PeterL22 added 21:31 - Aug 23
Agree with that analysis! Not sure I understand Ralph anymore. Fair comments above about Theo, who really has been very insipid in both games - for me Stewy must start (really hoping it's not a sign of immIntent departure). Ralph's substitutions remind me of Koeman's. Every time he makes them I am totally confused and wonder what the plan is! The only difference is than with Ronald I would realise after a few minutes what he was doing- unfortunately with Ralph after a few minutes I still have no idea (or can see that he is wrong)!

underweststand added 15:24 - Aug 25
Can't disagree with the majority comments ( above).
Ralph took us all by surprise in picking the same side than finished so insipidly v. Everton.
This time a change of tactics worked well and we got our first point. A very good show.

The comment that overshadows all - this is Solskjer's insistence that Saints' only tactic was to kick his players - and this after Fernandes had already got the first booking and Harry McGuire was lucky to get away with just a yellow card after his last ditch tackle.

Referees are certainly letting a lot go by this season and physical contact has become "the norm " rather than the exception. There is no rule that tougher players aren't permitted to tackle " ten-stone weaklings ", and the likes of Fernandes are likely to find life in the Prem. ....a " bit harder " this season, although Scott McTominay will undoubtedly still get his regulation number of red cards before the season is out.

Now that we have signed "a few more bodies" we will see some tactical changes in future games, but this one point can be called "well-deserved".


KriSaint added 18:16 - Aug 25
Solskjaer said that our tactics were to kick his players?????
I used to kinda sympathize with the dude, but that loser statement really p*sses me off.
F*ck *ff Ole Gunnar!

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