Manchester United 2-0 Southampton: The three best and worst performers

Manchester United’s first home fixture was perhaps the most highly anticipated of the season so far, and United fans surely won’t be disappointed with their side’s 2-0 victory over Southampton. Football fans across the world were desperate to see the world’s most expensive player in action alongside one of the most exciting prospective sides in world football.

Southampton were looking to push on under new manager Claude Puel. An unspectacular 1-1 draw against Watford last week left the Saints faithful unenthused, but a very solid record at Old Trafford had them hoping for an improved performance.

 

On the day though, Manchester United proved too good for an underperforming Southampton side. Puel’s insistence on using a 4-4-2 diamond cost his side greatly, as they offered little in wide areas and seemed stretched in midfield, and Mourinho’s United Red Devils took full advantage of the situation.

Here’s three of the best players from Friday’s game.

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While Zlatan Ibrahimovic will steal the limelight, Eric Bailly was unquestionably the best player on the Old Trafford pitch. Manchester United’s £30 million signing from Valencia was outstanding at the back, completely nullifying what little Southampton offered going forward.

The 22-year-old was utterly dominant, making four interceptions and a huge nine clearances over the course of the game – more than twice as many as any other player bar Virgil van Dijk. The Ivorian outpaced any of Southampton’s attacking players, sweeping up balls behind the back line and redistributing possession well.

On a couple of occasions, he was perhaps too comfortable in possession, but that should fade out his game as he adapts to the league.

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As he is wanted to do, Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show at Old Trafford. The Swede is doubtless one of Europe’s most successful strikers in modern times, and while many were sceptical he would be as dominant in the Premier League, he’s starting to prove his doubters wrong.

A powerful header from the 34-year-old put United ahead before he tidily slotted a penalty to claim his brace, but Ibrahimovic’s influence expanded much further than just in front of goal. His hold up play was exemplary throughout, but his movement created so much space for his teammates to operate in.

Were it not for the exploits of Southampton’s centre backs, the ex-Barcelona striker could’ve had an assist or two as well.

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The third best player could’ve gone two ways, but in the end, Virgil van Dijk’s performance at the heart of the Saints defence won out.

Van Dijk put in an admirable performance for his club, registering four interceptions and seven clearances under constant pressure from the home side. The Saint’s £13 million signing from Celtic last year could prove to be one of their best if van Dijk maintains his current form.

The 25-year-old is definitely justifying his new contract and, while it would be incorrect to say he did it single-handed, had a huge part in keeping Manchester United to two goals.

Marouane Fellaini also put in a composed and capable performance in midfield, only just losing out on a top three spot.

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As with all things in life, there is balance. Here’s a look at the three worst performers from the match. Saints fans, look away now.

Southampton’s midfield struggled throughout the game, but no-one more so than Jordy Clasie. The Dutchman looked out of his depth against United, offering none of the defensive steel the Saints needed and very little creatively.

Clasie failed to pressure the United midfield or forwards in any way, yet seemed to lack the footballing intelligence to effectively cover his back four solely with his positioning alone. His passing contributed nothing moving forward, leaving spectators to wander what his role in the side actually was.

The 25-year-old recycled possession well at times, but offered little of the positivity that could’ve sparked a Saints fight back.

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The modern full-back is expected to contribute at both ends of the pitch, and generally speaking, Matt Targett contributed at neither. The youngster was regularly outclassed by Antonio Valencia and Anthony Martial when United attacked down the left, yet offered little in the final third..

The 20-year-old is highly regarded at St Marys but he did nothing to justify his position in the team beyond filling in for the injured Ryan Bertrand.

He is still young, and he did make seven tackles during the game, but that’s only because he was constantly pressured down the flank and consistently beaten as well. Targett doubtless has a lot of developing to do if he wants to perform against the league’s top teams.

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Shane Long had a superb season for Southampton last season, scoring a career best 10 goals over the course of the campaign. His dogged tenacity and work rate made him a near-mainstay in the Saints line up, but he failed to carry over his impressive form from last season at Old Trafford.

While he can’t solely be blamed for the Saints inability to create, he offered very little in the way of movement to make himself available when his side, however rarely, had the ball. Long only managed one shot on target as well, a glance into the impotency of Southampton’s attack.


Featured image: All rights reserved by 7dphotography

Will also writes for Football Ticket Net, his choice for Manchester United and Southampton tickets.

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