3️⃣ points as Man United let huge CL chance slip at the death


Padraig Whelan

Article image: 3️⃣ points as Man United let huge CL chance slip at the death

Manchester United let a massive chance to take control of their top four destiny slip in the last seconds at home to Southampton.

An early Paul Pogba error gifted Stuart Armstrong a goal but Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s quickfire strikes turned the game on its head before Michael Obafemi struck in the 96th minute.

This is what we made of it …

Champions League on hold

After Chelsea and Leicester City both lost at the weekend, the magnitude of this one increased for United.

They had a chance to leapfrog both into third and take a massive step towards the Champions League.

It has taken them quite a while of waiting in the wings for their chance to pounce and they looked on course to do it too, until they fell at the worst possible moment.

United actually received their stiffest test in quite some time off a stubborn and really well-balanced Southampton side (who should actually have had Oriol Romeu sent off in the first half but y’know, VAR).

Their high press caught their hosts (and Pogba) out early and they were never out of the game, even after falling behind.

Nathan Redmond had a late strike superbly saved by David de Gea on his 400th appearance and in the dying embers, they got the goal their performance deserved.

A corner wasn’t dealt with as Victor Lindelöf failed to get in front of the ball and with his goalkeeper static, the Saints stunned everyone.

It is a result that leaves United in fifth when a win would have propelled them up to third place in the table and almost certain to finish in the top four.

That said, they do have two favourable fixtures before travelling to Leicester City on the final day so all is not lost yet.

But this was a massive missed chance.

Did Ole’s ideal XI backfire?

For the first time in 27 years, Manchester United picked the same starting line-up for the fifth consecutive game.

It is pretty clear to see why. With everyone fit and available, this is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best XI.

You could make a case for Brandon Williams but Luke Shaw has been terrific lately and it was just a shame to see him limp off with 15 minutes to go – meaning this run could be coming to an end.

Fred may also feel hard done by in missing out but Nemanja Matić provides stability and reliability.

That’s a comfort when you have Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings for their ravenous attacking trio, who are outscoring even the best of them.

But there is also a case to be made that for all this may be the Norwegian’s best 11 players, he perhaps should have had the nous to shake things up.

Games continue to come thick and fast and they have FA Cup duties on their schedule too, along with the run-in and Europa League next month.

Keeping things fresh perhaps could have taken priority over going with his best, although that is easy to say afterwards.

But they did concede a goal very late when minds and bodies were all tired so it is a question worth asking.

United may have maintained their unbeaten run but this is a draw which will feel like a defeat.

Martial arts

Let’s end on a positive for the home side shall we?

Martial is enjoying the best season of his career – breaking the 20-goal barrier for the first time with his phenomenal strike.

At long last, he is looking like the player that everyone could see he was capable of becoming.

It is finally clicking for him and he is playing with an extreme amount of confidence at the moment, as evidenced by the way he took his chance.

There will be moments, such as the one when the score was 0-0, when he’ll still frustrate after racing in on goal but firing straight at Alex McCarthy.

But it is those moments which are becoming further and father between, while the magic ones are becoming ever more regular.

It was one of those that he produced to put his side ahead, breezing into the area from the left and driving in a net-buster at the near post.

With that goal, he also hit 50 in the league for United and became just the 10th man to accomplish that feat.

Five years after being named the Golden Boy, he is finally living up to that potential on a consistent basis.

Martial is now the Golden Man.