BPL G37 : SOUTHAMPTON 0 UNITED 0

Manchester United played out a goalless draw against Southampton in the Reds’ final Premier League away game of the 2016/17 season.

Sergio Romero proved to be the hero in goal with several brilliant saves, including a fine stop to deny Manolo Gabbiadini from the penalty spot early on.

Anthony Martial hit a post in the second half for the Reds, who are now winless in five league games but, with hopes of finishing in the top four already over, the main focus remains on the Europa League final in order to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League.

With next Wednesday’s showpiece against Ajax in Stockholm firmly in mind, Jose Mourinho rotated his squad again with four changes from Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Tottenham, as Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan came into the side.

After starting the season at Bournemouth, United’s final away trip of the league campaign was also on the South Coast to take on the Saints for the first time since the thrilling win in the EFL Cup final at Wembley in February.

Backed by a strong support from 5,000 vocal fans on a wet evening at St Mary’s, the Reds were given an early let-off when the hosts were awarded a penalty after just five minutes when Eric Bailly was adjudged to have handled a crossfield pass inside the box by referee Mike Dean.

But Romero, making only his second Premier League appearance of the season, got down to his right to tip Gabbiadini’s low effort around the post superbly.

The Ivorian almost made amends immediately when he seized on a loose pass from Matt Targett and charged towards the Southampton penalty area, making room for a shot from the edge of the box which was beaten away by Fraser Forster.

Martial, who was lively at White Hart Lane last weekend, then fired a shot wide after being played in by captain Wayne Rooney before Mkhitaryan, operating in the no.10 role, saw his low effort from 25 yards tipped behind by Forster.

As the Reds continued to grow into the game, Axel Tuanzebe, starting for the third successive Premier League match for the Reds, thundered in a shot which cannoned behind for a corner off Maya Yoshida.

At the other end, James Ward-Prowse threatened for the hosts with a free-kick which curled wide from 20 yards before Nathan Redmond tested Romero with a drilled shot from distance as neither side could make the breakthrough in a closely-contested first half.

HALF-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession:
Southampton 51% United 49%
Shots: Southampton 7 United 7
Shots on target: Southampton 3 United 1
Corners: Southampton 3 United 3

Southampton started the second half with the same urgency as they begun the first and Romero almost single-handedly kept the Reds level with a series of impressive saves.

The Argentine beat away a fierce 20-yard effort from Dusan Tadic, tipped behind Oriol Romeu’s shot inside the box behind and acrobatically clawed away a curler from Ward-Prowse before the hour mark as United were forced to withstand heavy pressure from the energetic hosts.

When the Reds finally gained some respite, Rooney tried his luck with an ambitious shot from distance but did not trouble his England team-mate Forster in the Saints goal before the onrushing Juan Mata curled off target from Rooney’s lay-off at the end of a swift move.

Seeing the need for additional experience in midfield, Mourinho introduced Michael Carrick, who made his 700th club career appearance, in place of Tuanzebe before injecting extra pace in the shape of Marcus Rashford as Mata was withdrawn.

Soon after, the Reds were agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when Martial carried the ball forward before unleashing a fine curling shot which was unfortunate to come back off the inside of the right-hand post before Mkhitaryan blazed the rebound over the crossbar.

Rodriguez fired wide and substitute Sofiane Boufal rifled off target for the Saints late on as United held on resiliently for a point, with the chance to sign off the league campaign with three points against Crystal Palace to come on Sunday at Old Trafford.

FULL-TIME MATCH STATS
Possession:
Southampton 53% United 47%
Shots: Southampton 17 United 11
Shots on target: Southampton 6 United 1
Corners: Southampton 7 United 3

THE TEAMS:

Southampton: Forster; Cedric (Pied 69), Stephens, Yoshida, Targett; Romeu, Davis (c), Ward-Prowse (Boufal 77); Tadic, Gabbiadini (Rodriguez 62), Redmond.

Subs not used: Hassen, Caceres, Clasie, Austin.

Booked: Romeu, Cedric.

Manchester United: Romero; Bailly, Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Tuanzebe (Carrick 64), Fellaini (Herrera 75); Mata (Rashford 69), Rooney (c), Mkhitaryan; Martial.

Subs not used: Pereira, Mitchell, Lingard, McTominay.

Booked: Jones.

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