Man Utd shut down by Saints as Van Gaal faces Moyes misery
Southampton underline their top four credentials with win at Old Trafford to go third in the table
Manchester United 0 Southampton 1. A calmly taken goal from Dusan Tadic earned Southampton their first league victory at Old Trafford in 27 years and moved them up to third in the table, leapfrogging their opponents and underlining their status as genuine top four material.
Coming just ten days after their impressive defeat of Arsenal, the Saints' victory was confirmation of their credentials as serious contenders for a place in next season's Champions League. For United it was a miserable afternoon. Not only did they suffer their first home defeat since losing to Swansea on the opening day of the season, but Louis van Gaal's side failed to muster a single shot on target as their ten-match unbeaten run in the league came to a juddering halt.
They now lie fourth, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea, two behind Southampton and just one clear of Arsenal, who thrashed Stoke 3-0 at the Emirates earlier on Sunday.
The result left United stunned, and captain Wayne Rooney appeared to have been playing in a different game judging by his post-match comments. "I think overall we had the better chances and played the better football and deserved to win," he said. "I have seen Southampton play better, we stopped a lot of their threats but we got punished. We have to move on and focus on the next game."
Perhaps Rooney in his distress forgot that United didn't have a shot on target, or perhaps it's another example of the muddled thinking that had bedevilled the Red Devils in the 18 months since Alex Ferguson stepped down. Rarely has a United team been so abysmal at home and Louis van Gaal's displeasure was evident during the post-match news conference. Informed by a reporter that United have the same number of points now as they did at this stage of last season under David Moyes, Van Gaal fixed the journalist with an icy stare and replied: "You have waited until this moment to put this question? This moment I have the same points as David Moyes... OK."
He later admitted that United "have to be better" but he couldn't bring himself to say the better team won. "We were the dominating team... I think Southampton came for the draw, and went away with the victory."
There were contrasting emotions for Southampton with manager Ronald Koeman delighted with his team. "If you play against a big side you need spirit and quality but you also need belief in yourself and your team-mates and we showed that today," he declared. "We have had good organisation all season, we have 11 clean sheets in 21 games and that is key to being successful."
Admitting that the result might have been different if Juan Mata hadn't squandered the two chances that came his way, Koeman nonetheless said the win proved that the Saints deserved to now be taken seriously. "We have aspirations [of getting into Europe], but at the beginning of the season you have to wait. Now we can say we fight for a European place... we will fight until the last game."
Southampton were well-organised and patient from the start while United were curiously flat in a first 45 minutes that offered little in the way of excitement. Angel di Maria wasted the home side's only chance of the half when he shot the wrong side of the post. Not so Tadic, who was on hand on 69 minutes to fire the ball home from 12 yards after Graziano Pelle's initial effort had rebounded off the post.
Mata's two opportunities came in the final quarter but the Spaniard fluffed both to hand the Saints their first Premier League win over United since January 1988 - a 19-game losing streak broken by a Serbian who was just ten months old at the time of the last victory.