Southampton leave it late to spoil the Januzaj party
MANCHESTER UTD 1 SOUTHAMPTON 1
This was not quite the carnival Manchester United supporters were hoping for after the announcement that the club had secured Adnan Januzaj on a new five-year contract.
All was going well enough until the 89th minute, by which point the home side had hit the woodwork twice and led through a goal that the 18-year-old helped to create, but single-goal leads are always fragile and Adam Lallana wiped out United's with a deflected close-range shot after coming up for a late corner.
The goal was originally given to Dejan Lovren but Mauricio Pochettino thought Lallana might have got the last touch, although nobody was sure. It was that kind of goal but it earned Southampton a point they deserved. "My team was very brave, the players put in a great effort," the Southampton manager said. "We dominated the game at times and we were pushing for a winner at the end."
It just goes to show you can't have a fairy tale every week. Januzaj did well enough but the defensive frailties he helped disguise at Sunderland a fortnight ago returned at the death to cost United. Southampton were worth a point, while United's focus will now shift not only to central defence but to the opportunities missed in attack.
Pochettino's team actually edged the possession statistics here but United created by far the best opportunities and ought to have been further ahead as the final whistle approached. "It was disappointing to lose a goal so late but we had good opportunities before that to get the game finished off," David Moyes said. "We didn't do well enough defending the corner but the game should have been put to bed by then. I said to the players at half-time that a single goal would not be enough, we would need more."
Januzaj took a little time to introduce himself to his new public in his first Old Trafford start. Apart from being welcomed to the Premier League by being kicked into the air by Nathaniel Clyne, the first time he ventured down the left wing, the teenager was barely involved in the opening quarter until two killer passes alerted everybody to what he could do.
The first was an astute low cross good enough to provide a goal but one that found Patrice Evra in an offside position. The second did lead to a goal when Januzaj's measured through ball left Wayne Rooney with only the goalkeeper to beat. Boruc kept out the England striker's shot but was powerless to prevent Robin van Persie fastening on to the rebound.
That was only the third league goal Southampton have conceded all season, an impressive record after eight matches. The visitors showed the same sort of organisation and pressing that earned them the points at Anfield last month, although they do not score many goals either and need to take their chances when they arrive.
Just before Van Persie's goal, Dani Osvaldo had an outstanding opportunity to open the scoring when Rooney lost possession close to his own penalty area and should have done much better than a tame shot that David de Gea easily kept out.
For a moment it looked as though the floodgates might open when Rooney crashed a shot against the bar a couple of minutes after United had taken the lead but Southampton recovered their composure and made it to the interval without further alarms.
A fairly dismal opening to the second half was typified by Rooney setting up a United attack with a wayward pass, then Osvaldo returning the favour by reaching the edge of the penalty area and giving the ball to Nani.
Januzaj was booked in this scrappy period for a foul on Clyne, while Nani was denied first a foul then a possible penalty after being pulled back by Luke Shaw on two separate occasions.
The game was still in the balance, awaiting its decisive moment, and after Van Persie had headed a Rooney corner on to the bar Januzaj almost provided it with a swerving shot from 25 yards that Boruc did superbly well to keep out. United might have scored from the rebound had the out-of-sorts Marouane Fellaini showed a little more composure, although on most days the original shot would have been enough. The wonderkid was only denied a wonder goal on his full home debut by a save of the highest class.
Even with Danny Welbeck sent on to beef up the attack, United failed to add to their lead, however, and Southampton actually finished the game looking the stronger side.
Lallana and Clyne both brought late saves from De Gea, the latter from a clear shooting opportunity that should have served as a warning.
And when James Ward-Prowse sent in a corner a minute before the end of normal time the new centre-back pairing of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans failed to deal with it, leaving Southampton's Lallana and Lovren to dispute who had diverted the ball beyond De Gea.
"It was a positive draw to add to our very good win at Anfield," Pochettino said. "We are on a good run and we want to keep believing.
"We are not in a false position in the table, the sky is the limit."