Tadic Strikes to Give Saints Victory Over United
Ronald Koeman’s men travelled to Old Trafford on Sunday looking for a win that would see Southampton leapfrog Manchester United on the table; and the Dutchman got his wish.
A single goal by Dusan Tadic shortly after the hour mark was all the visitors needed to claim three points against an unimpressive home side that were completely outplayed by the Saints.
The teams met at the beginning of the Christmas period and it was United who narrowly escaped with three points but Louis van Gaal has reverted back to his favoured 5-3-2 formation since then and performances have dropped.
The battle for third place was always going to be a hard-fought one with just one point separating the two teams and that is exactly how it played out.
Both teams came out with the clear intention of attacking and putting pressure on the opposition but neither was finding any luck in front of goal.
An injury to Toby Alderweireld forced Koeman into an early change, bringing on Florin Gardos after just 20 minutes but that was as exciting as the half got.
The teams went into the interval all square.
Much of the build up to the fixture focussed on van Gaal dropping Radamel Falcao from the 18-man squad in favour of Angel Di Maria and it was exactly that instinctive poacher that United were missing in the final third.
The Argentine continued his comeback from injury but, unfortunately for United, his poor run of form also continued.
Unable to complete 8 of his 20 attempted passes, Di Maria also failed with all eight of his crosses and could not hit the target with any of his shots.
Southampton went into the game with the best defensive record in the Barclays Premier League and it was hard to see how the home side were going to change that.
A balanced second half looked to be drifting to a stalemate but then Koeman made the change that turned the game in his favour.
On 69 minutes, Graziano Pelle’s shot cannoned off the post but a scrappy defence failed to deal with the rebound and allowed substitute Tadic to pass the ball into the net.
That was the first and last shot on target of the game.
Juan Mata had four chances in the final 15 minutes to claw a point back for United but, even when right under the crossbar, the Spaniard could not hit the target.
His efforts summed up the performance as the Red Devils failed to force a single save out of Fraser Forster the entire match.
The win is the first at Old Trafford for Southampton since January 1988 and United’s first defeat at home since the opening day of the season.