United’s reserve stopper wowed with string of saves to keep below par visitors in the game… but it is now over six hours without a goal on south coast
SOUTHAMPTON and Manchester United produced bore draw at St Mary’s where Sergio Romero produced a world class performance to keep the Saints at bay.
Referee Mike Dean awarded a controversial penalty after just five minutes when Eric Bailly went to chest the ball and handled it – but it looked just outside the box.
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But United’s backup stopper Romero, playing because David De Gea looks to have been dropped ahead of a Real Madrid move, made a stunning save from Manolo Gabbiadini’s spot-kick, setting the tone for his evening.
Bailly then tried to make amends minutes later as he danced through the Saints defence – but Fraser Forster was forced into a good save from his low shot.
Romero then saved just before half-time from Nathan Redmond’s low curler, but it was routine and the half ended a drab 0-0.
Southampton started the second half strongly, and Romero was at his very best again – first from Dusan Tadic’s indirect free-kick, then Oriol Romeu and then James Ward-Prowse as we momentarily forgot about De Gea.
Young Saints centre -back Jack Stephens had all the time to side-foot home from a deflected Ward-Prowse corner, but he miscued his shot at the far post.
There was not much in the way of United chances, with Wayne Rooney firing high over and then unselfishly laying a ball off to Juan Mata who could only shoot over.
Anthony Martial had the away side’s best chance of the game on 71 minutes when he ran at the Southampton defence and curled the ball agonisingly onto the base of the post.
But neither team could break the deadlock, and it is now over six hours without a goal at Southampton’s home ground, where the fans were frustrated yet again with boss Claude Puel.
Jose Mourinho meanwhile knows his side cannot finish anywhere other than sixth, with only a match at home to Crystal Palace to come before the all-important Europa League final against Ajax next week.
STATS, FACTS, GOALS & LOLS
- Another televised game, another howler by the match officials. Mike Dean looked at the assistant, who wasn’t flagging. Then gave the penalty. We want VARs. When do we want them? Now.
- Sergio Romero made a good penalty save, but you always wonder if it’s wise to let strikers desperate for a goal, like Manolo Gabbiadini, take spotkicks.
- By the time Saints host Stoke on the final day, Gabbiadini will have gone more than three months without scoring.
- It wasn’t Romero’s only good stop, though. When the Saints surged at the start of the second half, he kept United in the game with a series of saves.
- Matt Targett gave Southampton fans a reason to be cheerful, making his first appearance since a hamstring injury in October which later required surgery.
- Southampton have scored only three of the six penalties that they’ve been awarded this season. Three of the five United have conceded were awarded for handball.
- The United fans rolled out plenty of golden oldies among their chants, including the Jaap Stam ditty. If Reading win promotion, the Royals boss will be able to hear it in person.
- But are they serious in their version of “I’m Into Something Good” (which they stole from Peterborough) when they sing “Jose’s got us playing the way we should”?
- At least a few people were excited about this meaningless match. The Kenyan rugby players sitting behind the press box were very vocal.
The booing of Claude Puel’s substitution of James Ward-Prowse was another sign of the unrest about the Saints boss. But his team did improve on a limp first-half display.