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3 ups, 3 downs

Saints 1-1 Manchester Utd: 3 ups, 3 downs by Luke Weir

10-man Southampton picked up a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at St Mary’s.

Despite a positive start to the match, United opened the deadlock after 10 minutes thanks to an excellent Dan James finish into the top corner after cutting in from the left.

Saints then struggled to react with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting to take control but failed to add what could have been a crucial second goal.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side then got the equaliser 13 minutes after the break courtesy of Jannik Vestergaard’s first goal for the club; heading home a Kevin Danso cross.

Kevin Danso got himself sent off courtesy of two yellow cards with around 20 minutes to play with there being no protests from the youngster.

Despite a nerve-wracking close to the match, Saints held onto the point that lifts them onto four for the season.

I’ve chosen three ups and three downs from this performance and they are as follows:

UP: Jannik Vestergaard

This was one of the best performances, if not the best outing, the Danish defender has had in a Saints shirt.

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure if Vestergaard has the defensive abilities to play in a back four and thought he was best suited to the left side of a back-three.

However, he proved me wrong today after providing a couple of great interceptions to deny the likes of Marcus Rashford and Andreas Pereira.

He also formed a very good partnership with Jan Bednarek which could be used going forward in this 4-2-2-2 formation.

The icing was then put onto the cake after he headed home the leveller to get his first goal for the club since signing for Saints last summer.

Vestergaard – Photo credit Matt Watson Southampton FC

Given his great height and stature coupled with James Ward-Prowse’s excellent dead ball deliveries, it had always surprised me how infrequent Vestergaard won headers in the opposition box but maybe this is the start of something great for the Danish defender.

DOWN: Cedric Soares

Since arriving at St Mary’s in 2015, Cedric has often divided the Saints fans and it appeared last season that Hasnehuttl sided with the critics of the Portuguese international.

The right-back was loaned out to Inter Milan when the manager arrived as he opted to play with youngster Yan Valery in that position.

I thought Valery was the breakthrough star of last season and had a superb run of games in the second-half of the last campaign.

The Frenchman had also been picked ahead of the Cedric for the opening three games of this season despite the latter returning from his loan spell.

Cedric did start this game against United however along with the midweek win over Fulham, but all this proved to me was how impressive Valery has been since his debut last year.

Although Dan James’ finish was exemplary, Cedric’s role in the goal wasn’t pretty. He chose to back-off the Welsh winger as opposed to closing him down and turned his back when James let rip rather than be brave and attempt to block the effort.

Cedric’s backing-off continued and I have to say I would prefer to see Valery’s aggression and energy going forward for the upcoming games, even if it risks us being more exposed at the back. 

UP: Home goals

I have to say I was somewhat surprised to hear this stat in commentary for the game today and it summed up the affect that Ralph Hasenhuttl has had on this team.

It wasn’t too long ago that home goals were few and far between under Claude Puel, which contributed to his sacking, and Mauricio Pellegrino who struggled to improve things at St Mary’s.

However, things have changed since then and Vestergaard’s goal extended a run that is very close to breaking the Saints record in the Premier League.

Saints have now scored in their last 16 home Premier League games, with their last blank at St Mary’s coming in a 0-0 draw against Newcastle last October.

This is only one short of their best ever home goal scoring run in the Premier League when they scored in 17 straight games at the Dell between August 1992 and April 1993.

This will be broken if Saints can score in their next two home games against Bournemouth and Chelsea after the international break.

DOWN: Injuries

This one is more to do with the Fulham win as opposed to the Manchester United draw but it still affected this game.

Saints progressed into the third round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday after a 1-0 win at Craven Cottage, which sets up a mouth-watering clash with Portsmouth in the next round, but it wasn’t all good news as injuries largely overshadowed the result.

The most concerning was last season’s player of the year, Nathan Redmond, who went down and had to be taken off; he was later spotted with a protective boot which would’ve been a big concern for Saints fans.

It was later revealed that Redmond would be out for 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury which side-lined him for the United draw and his absence was notable for large periods of the match.

His return will be welcome as Saints often lacked an outlet with pace to break the opposition defence down.

Moussa Djenepo scored the fantastic first goal against Brighton last weekend but also picked up a muscle problem against Fulham which hopefully won’t rule him out for too long.

Michael Obafemi completed the injured trio but appeared to be the least harmed of the three after his problem only appeared to be cramp.

UP: Kevin Danso (first 70 minutes)

I’ve been impressed with Danso’s first three starts for Saints, even if two have them have been in his unfamiliar left-back position.

He’s looked calm, composed and very solid at the back and could be a real asset for the season following his deadline day move from Augsburg.

He also assisted the Saints goal with a brilliant cross to Vestergaard after looking to get forward on more occasions in the second-half.

There is another asset that Danso has that could prove useful as he demonstrated his long-throw ability in the first-half which could prove useful in upcoming games, especially after Vestergaard has finally got off the mark with a headed goal.

However, Danso does have a rash edge to his defending and will need to learn from this going forward which leads me nicely onto the last down…

Danso – Photo credit Matt Watson Southampton FC

DOWN: Kevin Danso (red card)

After all the positive words I have about Danso’s first 70 minutes, what followed was very silly that could have cost his side a crucial point.

His first yellow card came after 20 minutes and was for a rather cynical foul to prevent a United attack.

He then needed to compose himself, realise he’s on a yellow card and acknowledge that he can’t make any more rash challenges for the remainder of the game.

However, he did just that with around 20 minutes to play after lunging in on Scott McTominay which was the easiest yellow card that Mike Dean will ever give.

This was unnecessary from the left-back as it was only just past the half-way line with it not looking likely that anything will come from the attack. Fortunately, Saints held on for the points and spared Danso’s blushes.

We can only hope that the 20-year old will learn from this in the same way that Valery learnt from his two yellows against Leicester last season, this was equally silly and preventable but we haven’t seen too much of that from him since.    

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