Substitute Charlie Austin scored a late winner on his debut as Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Southampton at Old Trafford this afternoon.
There was a slow start as both sides tried to establish control in the middle of the park. Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial both had speculative efforts but Fraser Forster’s goal was barely threatened. At the other end of the pitch, Sadio Mane found himself in space inside the Man United box but he failed to get the ball under control and the chance went begging.
Juan Mata was sent on following the interval and United were better as they fizzed the ball about with more conviction. However, there was still a glaring lack of an end product. They were eventually punished as Austin headed home from a corner to seal all three points for the Saints.
With Ashley Young injured, Borthwick-Jackson was handed his first Premier League start against the Saints.
The 18-year-old got up and down the left flank, defended reasonably well and didn’t look out of place despite his tender years. It was a disappointing result but Borthwick-Jackson can be satisfied with his display.
The Belgian is not the most popular man among supporters and van Gaal appeared to run out of patience with him too as Fellaini was substituted at half-time.
Up against Jordy Clasie and Victor Wanyama, Fellaini gave as good as he got and ensured that United were not outmuscled in a crucial area of the pitch but fans have come to expect much more from their central midfielders down the years and he was rightly taken off at the break in what was a positive change.
Sleepy first half
To the surprise of absolutely no-one associated with United, van Gaal’s side were laborious, predictable and spectacularly dull during the first half at Old Trafford as they went in at the break having failed to score for the 11th home game in succession.
There were loud boos from the majority of fans inside the stadium as United misplaced a number of passes and played it safe rather than taking risks. Supporters just wanted the slightest bit of encouragement from their team but the first half might as well have not happened.
United’s defensive injury crisis went from bad to worse against Southampton as Darmian was brought off after an hour played due to injury.
The Italian joins Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on the sidelines. Van Gaal recently admitted he is looking to buy defensive recruits and the issue became even more pressing on Saturday.
Another loss at Old Trafford
United needed to build on the win against Liverpool last week but their lack of quality in the final third saw them beaten by Southampton.
There was talk of a title challenge after the victory at Anfield but it’s safe to say there won’t be any murmurs of that now. Finishing outside the top four now looks like a real possibility.