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Man United held to draw at impressive Southampton in reality check

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SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) -Manchester United were given a reality check after last week’s storming start to the season when they could only draw 1-1 at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday after forward Mason Greenwood cancelled out an own goal by team mate Fred.

United began the campaign with a 5-1 home win over Leeds United last weekend but could not repeat that performance and were lucky not to lose to Ralph Hasenhuettl’s organised and dynamic side.

Southampton took the lead on the half-hour mark after a bright spell when Jack Stephens dispossessed Bruno Fernandes in the United half and the hosts swiftly moved the ball towards Che Adams, whose shot took a heavy deflection off Fred to squirm inside the near post and past David de Gea.

United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was convinced that Stephens had fouled Fernandes in the build-up to the goal but Hasenhuettl said he welcomed referees letting the game flow.

United defender Harry Maguire had hit the crossbar early on with a looping header while Anthony Martial’s rebound was scrambled off the line by Mohammed Salisu but the half had belonged to Southampton, who swarmed over United with an aggressive high press and caused havoc down the right-hand side.

Solskjaer’s side levelled early in the 55th when Greenwood thumped a low shot under Southampton keeper Alex McCarthy after clever interplay between Fernandes and Paul Pogba, who added another assist to the five he notched up against Leeds.

Southampton finished the game stronger though and Adam Armstrong missed two clear chances to win it, first being denied by a fine save from De Gea following another speedy transition and then failing to steer an Adams flick on towards goal following a corner.

Greenwood praised Southampton’s performance but criticised his side for not capitalising on the equaliser.

“It was a difficult game, Southampton defended well but in my eyes we dropped two points,” he told Sky Sports.

“When we got the equaliser we should have gone for the throats, the time went away and we did not get the winner towards the end.”

PHYSICAL AND AGGRESSIVE

Southampton right back Valentino Livramento said his side had chances to take all three points but he was happy with one.

“We knew the way we could compete was by being physical and aggressive with the press and hitting them on the counter,” he added.

Solskjaer made two changes from the side that had hammered Leeds, bringing in Nemanja Matic and Martial but again starting with new signing Jadon Sancho on the bench before bringing him on in the second half.

The Norwegian criticised his side’s defending for Southampton’s goal even as he said it should have been ruled out.

“If you don’t get a foul, we should make sure we block the shot, put your body on the line and make sure they don’t get a strike on target,” he said.

“That being said, it’s a foul. I like the more lenient way, it’s more men’s football but still, that’s a foul.”

He admitted his side had faded in the final few minutes.

“After we scored, we did well to get the goal, build pressure, had another five or six minutes with a good spell and then we lost our way a little bit,” he added.

“And maybe tiredness, sloppiness came in and we gave their crowd stuff to cheer about because they had a few counter-attacks and some dangerous moments.”

United travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers next while Southampton, who picked up a first point after last week’s 3-1 defeat at Everton, visit Newcastle United.

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Clare Fallon)

Reuters

Photo Nemanja Matic of Manchester United (C) wins the ball during the English Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester United in Southampton, Britain, 22 August 2021. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA