And there she is. A performance the lads can hang their hats on, and remind themselves that they are never out of a game. Too often in recent years United have played well at the off, faced adversity, and wilted. Not this time. Finally, United were able to capitalize on their pressure and possession, overcome a significant deficit, and deliver a vital 3 points in the title race.
We may not look at the table until Boxing Day, but it’s hard not to know that we’re 5 off the top with a game in hand, and may be finalizing an identity to carry with them into a congested holiday schedule.
OGS – Sent out a stable yet aggressive lineup. The diamond may be the best way to incorporate the many talented attackers at his disposal. The attacking creativity of the diamond was evident in the first 15 minutes, and is hard to blame for either of the goals. The introduction of Cavani early proved to be crucial. 8.
DDG – His vulnerability at the near post is becoming a real issue. It is a trend that stretches back to last season, where he was caught cheating to the far post on too many occasions. Not directly responsible for the first goal, though he should have commanded the box better. His positioning on the Ward-Prowse free kick was shocking. Chose the wrong line to take when diving to make the stop, and even if he had kept it out, he would have made contact well behind the goal line. Certainly gave up the body to try and make the save, but a little time watching film on Ward-Prowse would have hinted at the inevitability of a near post strike. 3.
AWB – A slightly sub-par display for the England hopeful. Rarely provided quality in attack, and was left exposed to Southampton’s attacks on the left. Tortured 1v1 against Djenepo, this just wasn’t one of those games where he was able to find his tackling range. 5.
Victor Lindelof – Seems to have shaken off his back injury. Looked very composed and sharp at the back, covering magnificently on a few counters. Positioning was solid throughout, though he should have been the man marking Bednarek on the first goal. 6.
Harry Maguire – His lack of pace was again exposed on occasion, but he put in some fine tackles to halt counters in the second half. Distributed well out of the back, and avoided the costly turnovers that could have ripped momentum back to the Saints. 6.
Alex Telles – A marauding display in the first half, he is always eager to get forward. Linked up well down the channels with Van de Beek and Rashford, and provided a few crucial tackles when the ball was turned over in the middle. His ability to pick a whipping cross deserved better finishing moves. 7.
Nemanja Matic – A drama free performance is about as much as you can ask from the mountainous Serb. Stopped attacks in their tracks, and passed forward with ease until the Saint’s upped the tempo. His confidence and competence in front of the back four allowed the midfield spear to stay forward and break the press. 6.5.
Fred – Sure to be an underrated performance from the Brazilian. Nothing he did will end up on the score sheet, but he was comfortable, confident, and aggressive on the right. A sloppy tackle led to the free kick, but nobody would have been able to do anything different there. Professional fouls near the end made sure that Southampton was never able to reestablish the rhythm. that had in the first half. 7.5.
Donny Van de Beek – Has made himself undroppable for PSG in midweek. Flew around the pitch, contributing just as much in defense as he did attack. Drew several fouls, and had a sublime awareness of his teammates positioning. Shifts through the gears with ease, and always seemed to be open when needed. His quick decision making is a breath of fresh air, and his ability freed up time and space for Fernandes. 8.
Bruno Fernandes – Could have finished off the rebound in the first half, but McCarthy was on another level today. Cast a frustrated figure after the second Saints goal, and his defensive work rate suffered as a result. Finished calmly precisely when United needed it, and then took the game by the scruff of the neck. 7.
Marcus Rashford – Showcased his incredibly individual dribbling ability, though went down too easy on a couple of occasions. Missed a great opportunity in the second half, but would have been offsides. Interchanged well with both Greenwood and Cavani to try and get on the ball in space. 7.
Mason Greenwood – Completely missed a gaping net early on when his touch took him too far wide. Shot straight at McCarthy after a giveaway, when a ball to either side would have leveled it. 3.
Edinson Cavani – Immediately provided a pressing work-rate that inspired the lads. Displayed an attacking suave that only comes from experience. His holdup play has proven invaluable, and his predatory instinct in front of goal is something only he can bring to the side right now. Now has more goals in 127 minutes than Sanchez had in his United career, and has more shots on goal (9) than Martial (7) all season. His movement in and around the box pulls defenders out of position, and his ability to finish with his head has not been seen since RvP. 9.
Dean Henderson – Wasn’t ready to come on when De Gea was injured, but made the most of his opportunity after the break. Made several expected, but important saves, and held onto the ball to prevent any rebounded efforts. His distribution with his arm allowed the ball to push forward quickly, and bypass the high pressing Saints. 7.
Brandon Williams – Came on late after Telles picked up a knock. Wasn’t asked to do much, but wasn’t a liability either. 6.