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Watt View - Hasenhuttl’s early action welcome and strength of bench a pleasant sight
Tuesday, 24th Aug 2021 09:25 by Matt Watts

To take a point off of Manchester United is a welcome event at any time, but maybe even more so given the doubts in many minds prior to Sunday’s first home fixture of the season. Matt Watts gives his run down on the game.

It sounds typically fickle - as football fans are so often accused of being - to suggest there were concerns heading into just the second game of this campaign, but there was just reason.

Having shipped out three first team mainstays in Danny Ings, Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand coupled with the second half collapse at Everton on the opening day, there was discontent amongst the St Mary’s faithful.

It looked an all too familiar story when a first-half lead was squandered at Everton within two minutes of the second-half. “Have we not learnt a thing?” was most certainly the question on everyone’s lips.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men then found themselves behind after 76 minutes and the boss hadn’t even made a change, waiting until the 79 minutes to do so. It was looking like a familiar story by then and the answer was seemingly that we had not learnt.

Within two minutes of Ibrahima Diallo’s introduction it was game, set and match when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s low diving header beat Saints’ keeper Alex McCarthy to make it 3-1.

The defensive frailties rightly led to much debate last week as all eyes turned back to the transfer market and the club’s hunt to replace Vestergaard, with Torino’s Lyanco emerging as the man likely to fill the Dane’s boots at the back.

The 24-year-old looks a a solid acquisition. A Brazil-Serbia dual national, he represented Serbia at under-19s but has since played at under-20 and under-23 levels for Brazil - and was part of their Toulon Tournament-winning side in 2019.

This picked up the mood somewhat, despite the fact Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s expensive and impressive United would be arriving on the South Coast on Sunday looking to build on their 5-1 demolition of Leeds in the season opener.

One could be forgiven for thinking the club had ‘taken one for the boss’ by turning attention from his unchanged team selection - which raised questions as to how open the Austrian is to change - to the shambolic turnstile debacle which prevented many fans entering the stadium until well into the first-half.

It did the trick if so, with everyone less concerned about the team selection and more concerned about how many zig-zags they would be walking before hearing the inevitable roar of cheers or gasps and boiling over when they realised their ticket wouldn’t scan and they would have to join the back of the next queue.

But back to the action. Credit where it is due, Hasenhuttl’s selection picked up where they had left off from the first half at Goodison a week before and set out to give it a real go in front of the returning home crowd and the fans duly obliged by soaking up the atmosphere (when inside) and providing a buzz for the players to feed off.

Clearly people were enjoying being back in the stands and there is no doubt it brings everyone that much closer to the team and manager, really fuelling that passion within everyone to will the team onto success - and none more so than against one of the league’s big guns.

There was visibly more steel in the side and the boss demonstrated his desire to avoid the mistakes of the previous week by replacing Theo Walcott with Jan Bednarek at half-time and Moussa Djenepo with Diallo on 70 minutes - both defensive options replacing attackers and both earlier than the last outing.

Despite conceding on 55 minutes to what looked like a relatively weak effort from Mason Greenwood which ran down the middle and squirmed underneath McCarthy - who could and maybe should have done better - there was no capitulation this time round.

Despite the much-improved display at the back - and the welcome return of Polish international Bednarek - there is no doubt the Lyanco signing is needed urgently. With a deal agreed and his medical due to take place yesterday, his unveiling seems imminent - and could be done by the time this piece is published.

What was noticeable against both the Toffees and the Red Devils was the growing strength of the Saints bench.

To see nine senior players - Kyle Walker-Peters, Shane Long, Nathan Redmond, Nathan Tella, Moi Elyounoussi, Diallo, Bednarek, Yan Valery and Fraser Forster - all named was a pleasant sight.

Given the boost the weekend’s point has provided, the trip to Newport County in the Carabao Cup tomorrow (Wednesday) will be a much more enjoyable outing for the boss, his squad and the travelling support.

For those making the journey to Wales, the growing strength of the first team squad means the Austrian will certainly name a strong outfit and will give much-needed minutes to those who have seen little to no action in the first two games.

It could also prove the ideal opportunity to introduce Chelsea loanee Armando Broja.

There are high hopes at Stamford Bridge for the 19-year-old, who signed five-year contract with the Blues this summer and scored 11 goals in 34 games on loan at Vitesse in the Dutch top flight last season.

Photo: Action Images

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