Tag Southampton

Tag Southampton

Reds into fifth round but only just

January 29, 2011 Tags: , Matches 18 comments

Twice in a week Manchester United has come from behind to win. Twice Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has displayed a level of ineptitude that threatened defeat. Indeed, much like United’s tie with Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday, Ferguson’s outfit was second best for much of today’s FA Cup Fourth round tie with Southampton.

Yet, with a will-to-win that is second to none and two second-half goals from Michael Owen and Javier Hernández, United qualified for the fifth round for the eight time in the past nine years.

Ferguson can take little heart from his team’s performance though despite the win, with several fringe first team players covering themselves in very little glory. Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, by contrast, will rue the energy that ebbed away from his side in the last half an hour of an absorbing cup tie.

“The first half we struggled all the way through it,” said United assistant manager Mike Phelan.

“The played extremely well and the system they used was working to plan. Our system wasn’t. We changed it a little bit at half time and then we tried to make amends in the second half by introducing a couple of new players.

“We’ve played players who are not getting as many games as we’d like to give them and we tinkered a little bit with the formation, which is unusual for us. The difference was the formation change – it changed the game.”

Ferguson though contributed to United’s first-half malaise, selecting for the second time in the week, a side devoid of balance and width. With Owen in an unfamiliar role behind strikers Gabriel Obertan and Hernández, and Darron Gibson making another strong case for permanent exclusion from the squad, United’s play was sloppy, casual and shapeless for much of the opening hour.

Southampton played with greater confidence from the start, but with rumoured United transfer target Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggling to impose on United’s unfamiliar back-four and début goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, the home side was restricted to long-range free kicks.

But United rarely threatened save for Owen’s miscued cross that hit corner of post and bar, and another speculative effort from the former Liverpool striker that flew wide.

Indeed, the home side always looked the most threatening and Richard Chaplow took full advantage of Jonny Evans’ poor clearance and Chris Smalling’s hesitancy to lash past Lindegaard on the stroke of half-time. The stunning finish reward for Southampton’s bright play.

Little changed in the opening minutes of the second period, as United struggled to find any rhythm and the hosts sought a second. The Saints left-back Dan Harding almost doubled the advantage, toe-poking a shot wide after a stunning run through United’s defence.

It was enough for Ferguson, who hauled off the ineffective Gibson and Anderson for Ryan Giggs and Nani, finally offering the width United had lacked for an hour. Those supporters of a crueller disposition might argue the former pair saw an hour more than necessary.

And the changes paid almost immediate dividends as United injected both pace and width into the game. First Nani crossed for Owen to poke wide from close range before Obertan delivered for the striker’s equaliser. There was a touch of fortune to United’s goal though, with the Frenchman’s crossing hitting Danny Seaborne and sitting up for Owen to head home on 65 minutes.

Ten minutes later and United sealed the win as Giggs, influential once again, intercepted Ryan Dickson’s pass and played in Hernández to strike home his second goal in a week.

“Obviously they played well, they’re flying high in their division, and always in FA Cups – no matter what standard you’re playing against – it’s always really tough for sort of 45 minutes or an hour,” said goalscorer Owen, who scored his tenth goal for the club.

“Inevitably, you know, the better quality – and it’s not fitness, obviously they’ve got to run more to keep up with us in many ways and then they tire – and it’s often the way that the better teams come good in the last half hour.”

That United was the better team in name only for much of the matters little now; Ferguson can at least look forward to the Reds’ inclusion in Sunday’s fifth round draw ahead of Aston Villa’s visit to Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

Yet the Scot must also be concerned with his squad’s quality after Gibson, Anderson, Obertan, Smalling and Evans all disappointed. On this evidence alone Ferguson must surely wonder whether Gibson or Obertan will ever make it at the club.

No such worries about Hernández though, who continues to impress during his debut season at Old Trafford.

“He’s only had one chance and he’s scored – one chance, one goal is a tremendous ratio,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“He has great feet in and around the box and gets his shots away quickly with hardly any backlift. His workrate is fantastic and he’s always on the move.

“Sometimes we make it difficult for ourselves, but in fairness I maybe meddled with the system by trying a diamond in the middle of the pitch.

“Manchester United are used to playing with width and I think that [the system] was a problem for us. It wasn’t working at all.”

Pretty or effective it was not but a cup victory nonetheless.

Match Facts
Southampton – 442 – Bialkowski; Harding, Fonte, Butterfield, Seaborne; Schneiderlin, Guly (N’Guessan 79), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Barnard (Dickson 73); Chaplow (Gobern 84), Lambert.

United – 433 – Lindegaard; Fabio Da Silva (Brown 46), Smalling, Evans, O’Shea; Anderson (Nani 58), Scholes, Gibson (Giggs 58); Owen, Hernandez, Obertan.

Attendance – 28,792
Man of the Match – Ryan Giggs

Possession: Southampton 49% – 51% United
Attempts: 12 – 11
On Target: 6 – 6
Corners: 5 – 3
Fouls: 13 – 6

Reds take strong squad to Soton

January 29, 2011 Tags: , Matches 100 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has taken a strong squad South for this afternoon’s FA Cup fourth round tie at League One Southampton. Mindful of last season’s early exit, the Manchester United manager is set on an easy passage through to the fifth round in a competition that the Reds have not won in more than six years now.

Edwin van der Sar will not feature, Patrice Evra is missing following a family bereavement, Rio Ferdinand is injured and Rafael da Silva will miss the game following his concussion against Blackpool on Tuesday but most of Ferguson’s big guns travel. Still, it is likely the Scot will make significant changes to the United team that came from two goals down against the seasiders during the week.

Indeed, after another horrendous Wayne Rooney performance and a fine Javier Hernández goal against Blackpool, United’s £30 million striker may well be under threat. Fringe players such as Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Gabriel Obertan and Darron Gibson could also feature.

Michael Carrick is also available following injury, while Anderson could feature after missing out during midweek.

There could also be a debut for £4 million Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, who officially joined during the winter transfer window. The 26-year-old was on United’s bench for the trip to Blackpool and will compete with Tomasz Kuszazck for a place in Ferguson’s first XI.

“Michael will train today and hopefully he will be okay to travel,” Ferguson said on Friday.

“We picked up one or two bruises at Blackpool the other night – it was quite a physical game, but we’ll still take a strong squad because it won’t be an easy match; away games in cup ties never are.

“I went to see Southampton play Oldham earlier this month and they won 6-0. They’re having a good season. They play good football and I’m sure they’ll have a go.”

The Saints, who dropped out of the Premier League fives years ago, are now own by the estate of late Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr, whose dream was to take the South coast club back into the top flight. Indeed, with Southampton now riding high in League One there is some light at the end of a very dark tunnel. The club is fortunate to still exist after falling into administration two years ago, for which the Football League administered a 10 point penalty.

Manager Nigel Adkins, who took over in September following a highly successful spell in charge of Scunthorpe United in the Championship, now has his side playing attractive attacking football in the Southampton tradition, with the club on course for a place in the League One play-offs come May.

Chalkboard versus SouthamptonIn Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the Saints have in-demand talents. Indeed, if tabloid rumours carry any weight, Ferguson is interested in midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has burst onto the scene this season. Son of former professional Mark Chamberlain, the teenager may command a £10 million fee, with Arsenal also in the hunt. Having lost out to Arsenal for Cardiff teenager Aaron Ramsey, Ferguson’s determination to land Oxlade-Chamberlain may win the day.

Meanwhile, Adkins Saints could be without captain Dean Hammond, who has a calf problem, and Lallana, who has missed two matches with a knee injury.

Nobody at United is taking Southampton for granted though, especially given the lengthy time since the club last won England’s premier cup competition.

“The manager has already had a little word with us over the last couple of days in training telling us how frustrated he is that he has not been able to get his hands on the trophy,” said defender Smalling, who is likely to start.

“We will be going all out for him and ourselves, and hopefully we can impose our presence on the game nice and early.

“Some people make changes in the FA Cup and view it different ways, but it’s an important competition to us and one we want to win.”

More than three thousand travelling Reds will attest to that, and with United on a five-match winning sequence against the Saints in all competitions confidence is surely high. Little chance then of Southampton repeating the club’s most famous win, at Wembley in 1976 when the Saints beat United 1-0 – via Bobby Stokes much-debated – to win the FA Cup.

Opposition
Southampton – 442 – Davis; Richardson, Dickson, Fonte, Harding; Jaidi, Guly, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Schneiderlin; Chaplow, Lambert. Subs from: Bialkowski, Butterfield, Martin, Seaborne, Gobern, Barnard, Doble

United
United – 442 – Lindegaard; Fabio da Silva, Vidic, Smalling, O’Shea; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Obertan; Hernández, Berbatov. Subs from: Kuzszazk, Evans, Brown, Gibson, Owen, Bébé, Giggs, Fletcher, Rooney.

Officials
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant referees: Simon Beck and Mike Mullarkey
Fourth official: Kevin Friend

Form
Southampton – WWWWDL
United – DWWWWW