One win, one loss were United's results versus Southampton last season. The best of Louis Van Gaal has often been seen against the...
The best of Louis Van Gaal has often been seen against the bigger sides.
So far meetings against former protegees Jose Mourinho and Southampton's Ronald Koeman have proven all but comfortable for Van Gaal.
Few key moments decided the game as Graziano Pelle put the home side in the lead in the first half before Anthony Martial pulled United level and then netted a second, pouncing on a poor Maya Yoshida backpass.
Mata capped off a team move to put united out of Southampton's reach.
"I am disappointed because in my opinion we lost by ourselves today" - Ronald Koeman expressed his frustration.If Southampton's performance at home is anything to go by then only a few teams would leave St Mary's with maximum points.
From a Manchester United perspective here are three things from the game.
1. Early Signs For The Defence?A lot has been said about United's makeshift center halve Blind and his suitability to the role. One has to give him credit for ignoring critics and putting in performances most center halves would be proud off.
A match winning performance against Liverpool and a couple of other stellar outings proves he's capable even at the highest level. However, against the Saints, he was given a torrid time; LVG has got to acknowledge that opposing managers will by default perceive Blind as a weakness thus target him in games.
Graziano Pelle is arguably among the best headers of ball in the division and everytime Southampton pilled pressure on United’s rearguard, Blind looked the weakest link. At every point a cross went in, you almost had to hope Blind was not the man picking out Pelle.
Early signs suggest he will not be anything close being as effective as Shaw. Rojo albeit impressed everytime he momentarily went into the center back position, making last ditch tackles on no less than two occasions.
As his fitness improves you'd hope United's best center halve last season should be fine.
Credit to the extensive ground work that's been carried out on Chris Smalling and Blind, they've built and understanding and complement each other's play
However, in the wake of Shaw's season ending injury, it would be in Man Utd's best interest to break up that partnership, move Blind to left back and start up a new pairing in Smalling and Rojo.
2. There's Quality, But There's A Need For The Right Pair.Its been a case of so far so good for LVG's summer signings with all six recruits settling in pretty well. In midfield where United strengthen most there's the a niggling debate over who best to pair the Morgan Schneiderlin.
The former Southampton linchpin has played more minutes than either of Carrick or Schweinsteiger (add Herrera), a clear indication he's no bit part player in Van Gaal's mind.
However, there's a small issue of similarities in role and quality to that of Micheal carrick an issue extensively discussed in one of my previous writeups.
United struggled for control in the first 30mins at St Mary's and this was largely down to roles occupied by Carrick and Schneiderlin as both players are deep lying playmakers with a job description of screening the back four.
'Carra' as referred to by teammates and Schneiderlin have a responsibility to win the ball back albeit with different style, the former via subtle interceptions given his superb reading of the game and the latter through brut force and high tempo pressing.
On the introduction of Schweinsteiger for Carrick, the Red Devils took charge of the midfield as a result of Schneiderlin being given more room to play role.
Shortly after Schweinsteiger was introduced, United put together a 47 pass move to score a third, a goal that might as well force the end of season awards committee to creating a team goal of the season category.
The Liverpool game last week is prove that various matches will require different personalities to execute different systems, like we saw with LVG fielding his two best passers of the ball (Schweinsteiger and Carrick). With Manchester United back in all four competitions this year you'd expect everyone to play a key role at various points.
So no worries there.
3. United's Front Three Is Progressing Well.The minute you pay in excess of £30 million for a player there's always going to be that pressure to force him into your starting eleven (except of course you coach Real madrid).
Let's ignore all that talk that Anthony Martial was bought for the next manager by Van Gaal; afterall the new manager comes in to take your place if you get fired.
Laugh that aside.
Martial has now scored 3 goals in two premier league matches for the United and although his manager tries to manage expectations, understandably so.
For now we can't but admit he is a star in the making.
A matchday win tends to earth alot of poor showings by individuals but what do Man Utd fans care? 3 points! Especially when you've just watch your neighbours City drop 3 points to West Ham. For them individual appraisals can wait after the points have been secured.
Wayne Rooney, "Mr Man Utd" did so well to fly under the radar for all of 90 minutes. Rooney started the game in the hole just behind Martial, a role a large section of the media and supporters believe he is naturally fitted to (still I don't remember him playing an exquisite through ball into the path of Martial or having any meaningful contribution in either halfs.)
One thing Rooney brings to his side more so as captain is leadership and you have to look at Arsenal to appreciate that quality. The 29 yeae old is someone the younger players like Depay and Martial can draw inspiration from on a bad day.
The much older recruits Darmian, Schneiderlin and even last season's Rojo, and Blind through Rooney can see what playing for Manchester United represents, a sentiment shared by Van Gaal.
The Reds are two points off table toppers City and if they're to mount a full scale assault on the title then Rooney must be playing near his best.
Goals have been hard to come by for the skipper though asides the goals, he brings a whole lot more to the team, The supporters will be eager to see that sheer brut and tenacity return to their talisman.
PS: Two of the three amigos had a terrific display against Southampton De Gea and Juan Mata.
The former with every single game is redefining the way we see goal keepers. Goalkeepers are no more merely seen as shot stoppers but genuine match winners.
For us all, It is clear to see that his head is clear and he's totally focused on the job now.
Oh! Van Gaal said that already.
United play Ipswich on Wednesday in the capital one cup.
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Yubby writes from the Counter Attack desk for Sportive23.com.ng follow @Sportive23_