Man United 0-1 Saints
Louis Van Gaal made a lot of having a near full set of Manchester United players available to face Saints, who were now missing Mané (both overseas and injured) as Ronnie sent out a team well briefed with very precise containing instructions and with Elia in for his debut. That meant no place for Tadić, as Ward-Prowse combined well with Schneiderlin to nullify any threat from Mata and Rooney. Even so, Alderweireld appeared to be a key man, and when he pulled up lame on 20 minutes, another fruitless visit to Old Trafford looked on the cards. Gardos, though, had obviously been paying attention to the pre-game plan and fitted in perfectly to a system that was competently keeping United at bay. Saints’ chances of a goal in the first half were limited to an effort from full back Clyne, and with Elia and Pellè rather isolated, that pattern continued.
Time then for Tadić, a 64th minute replacement for Elia: just over 5 minutes later, Saints were ahead, thanks to a pass from the Serb to free Pellè whose shot from a good position struck the post – Tadić was on hand to sidefoot the rebound home from the edge of the box. Cue a memorable topless goal celebration that has no doubt found its way onto You Tube by now – manager Koeman has called it stupid, so you may not see its like again for a while.
Only when chasing an equaliser did the home side seriously threaten, but the end of game stats still record nil efforts on target from them. Everything could have been very different had Mata shot between the posts instead of pulling the ball wide after Forster had flapped at Blind’s awkward cross, but Saints countered Van Gaal’s substitutions by sending on Reed for an industrious last ten minutes to take Saints to a memorable victory – their first on the ground (except for a penalty shoot out) since Colin Clarke’s goals secured a 2-0 win in 1988. Thank goodness he kept his shirt on.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jose Fonte, but there were plenty of contenders, including defensive partner Gardos. MotD singled out the two centre backs, plus Schneiderlin and Wanyama, but Ward-Prowse’s contribution was also crucial. Unfortunately there was no opportunity for our 11 official travellers to discuss such matters as a spate of cancelled trains left us searching for any available space on an overcrowded 19:35 back to Euston – not the first time we’ve had problems coming back from O.T., but this time the result was on our side.