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article imageMata and Martial strike Man United past careless Southampton

By Tyrrell Meertins     Sep 20, 2015 in Sports
It’s often stated that goals alter the pattern of games, and Manchester United’s victory over Southampton outlined the theory in a match of two halves at St. Mary’s.
It’s often stated that goals alter the pattern of games, and Manchester United’s victory over Southampton outlined the theory in a match of two halves at St. Mary’s.
Nevertheless, while transfer sagas, and prior disputes between the two managers were pre-match talking points, Ronald Koeman siding with Rio Ferdinand’s thoughts on Daley Blind was fairly interesting.
"I think he [Blind] can play very well out of that position but he's not really a strong defender physically. That's sometimes the problem, said Koeman.”
"He has a lot of other qualities out of that position that can be very positive for the team. It's our job to analyze opponents and, if he plays left or as a centre-back, we can do some movements in attack with crosses.”
Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian have developed into arguably the finest full-back duo in the league, but the former’s midweek injury forced Marcos Rojo to the left, forming an unfamiliar partnership with Blind. Therefore, Koeman instructed Graziano Pelle to drift into these areas to isolate Blind, while James Ward-Prowse surged forward to pick up loose balls and charge down the right.
More so, variety in team pressing and activity in wide areas served as catalysts to Southampton’s dominance in the opening half hour. Dusan Tadic cleverly outwitted Darmian on the left, Pelle bullied Blind, and Ward-Prowse delivered well-weighed crosses on the right. This was a well thought-out approach from Koeman because even with Shaw in the line up, teams have exploited his advanced positioning to penetrate space down the right.
Likewise, both Southampton goals stemmed from this area. Ward-Prowse’s superb delivery saw David De Gea make an incredible save to deny Sadio Mane, resulting in a Pelle tap-in from point blank range. Then, Mane ran at Blind – who reverted to left back subsequent to Rojo’s substitution – and located Pelle, who nodded the ball into the top corner.
United’s shape was positive out of possession — making one glaring mistake in letting Jose Fonte push forward in the build up to Pelle’s opener — but their overall threat in open play was subdued. There was no link between midfield and attack, with Rooney sitting too high in search of possession and utilizing the ball poorly, whereas Pelle and Mane limited Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin from playing penetrative passes from deep.
In truth, tactical patterns and trends are usually decisive in the final result, but here, defensive incompetence proved costly for Koeman’s men. Southampton received their warning when Chris Smalling’s simple punt led to Virgil van Dijk nodding the ball into the path of Juan Mata, who delivered a cross towards the far post that Memphis nodded over the net.
The away side, nonetheless fought back from a one-goal deficit courtesy of great fortune, and additional defensive errors from Koeman’s back-line. First, Fonte failed to clear his lines, resulting in Schneiderlin nodding the ball back into the path of Juan Mata — the Spaniard was offside when the ball was played — who luckily assisted Anthony Martial’s opener. Then, Maya Yoshida played an under-hit back pass into the path of Martial who coolly converted his third goal in two Premier League games.
Mata’s winner, however, represented the ideal United goal under Van Gaal’s strict possession-based philosophy. It came in a period that saw Southampton oddly drop deeper towards their box, whereas Bastian Schweinsteiger’s introduction offered improved ball retention. The 44-pass move witnessed Schweinsteiger charge forward to slide a pass into Memphis in half space, before Mata tapped the Dutchman’s shot off the post into the open net.
“With that amount of passes you control the game. I always say to the players that the gaps in the defensive organization shall exist when you play a kind of positional game. We did it today and I was very pleased, of course it is confirmation of our philosophy,” said van Gaal.
United will be pleased with their rise to second in the table, but their knack of dominating in spurts, whilst creating a handful of chances per game correlates with their inconsistent form. For all the good that came with Martial’s goals, De Gea’s master class, and the introduction of Antonio Valencia, there are still concerns that can’t be overlooked regarding Rooney’s poor form and defensive issues down the left.
Nevertheless, Southampton’s defensive miscues, combined with their inability to sustain their impressive wing play — inspired by Mane — witnessed United’s clinical finishing triumph on the day.
More about Manchester United, Martial, Louis van gaal, Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mane
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