This was a message written in unbridled style that Manchester United intend to remain a serious contender for the title. Sure, Southampton was reduced by injuries and had just 10 men in two minutes, but Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men showed an advantage that shows they are serious about the Premier League’s highest joint victory. United finished with nine in a breathless final that scored three goals. First, Jan Bednarek received Southampton’s second red card for Mike Dean, who awarded a penalty for a foul on Anthony Martial. After the VAR ordered the referee to approach the field side monitor, he upheld his original decision and added the expulsion. Bruno Fernades came up to score from the point, before Martial added an eighth and Dan James the final.
Solskjær’s only adjustment since the draw at Arsenal was to put Paul Pogba on the bench, for a “break” when Mason Greenwood entered. Southampton’s changes went to four: Moussa Djenepo, Che Adams, Kayne Ramsay and Alexandre Jankewitz replaced Theo Walcott, Oriol Romeu, Ibrahima Diallo and Nathan Redmond. If the top three were all injuries, Ralph Hasenhüttl hoped his team would bounce back from Saturday’s loss at home to Aston Villa, having also lost their previous home game to Arsenal. However, what unfolded was a horror show of an initial half. After just 79 seconds, Jankewitz dropped Scott McTominay and the referee, Dean, sent the 19-year-old, this was a nightmare debut, as Jankewitz had played only a minute for the club before. McTominay, however, could resume and consider himself lucky after what could have been a challenge at the end of the season.
Unsurprisingly, United dominated from here. Danny Ings withdrew from the attack to occupy the empty bunk on the left and Solskjær’s men mercilessly proceeded to solve a puzzle they may find difficult; the breakdown of accumulated resistance. They got closer when McTominay fired into a cross that Fred nearly headed in and Greenwood had a shot blocked: each of these openings went into the area. For Southampton, their only hope came through a breakaway or set piece, each of which United is vulnerable. However, now, they were raped. This was sweetly simple. The rejuvenated Luke Shaw threw the ball and Aaron Wan-Bissaka appeared from the right to shoot home just a second high-level goal.
So fluid was it when McTominay threw a pass to Edinson Cavani and his cute back heel found Fernandes. The visitors cleared, but the question was for how long? United were a red stain flooding Southampton in all areas. Shaw contributed for Wan-Bissaka, this time overcame, but United continued to take possession. The effervescent Shaw showed himself once more and this time he was clinical; the left-back touched Greenwood, who found Marcus Rashford, whose first shot beat Alex McCarthy to his left. This caused Hasenhüttl to throw his hands up in despair and while there was a respite when James Ward-Prow’s free kick warmed David de Gea’s hands, this was brief.
First, a shot from Fernandes forced the latter to take a corner, and when play was interrupted, the playmaker’s center nearly sent Jack Stephens over McCarthy. Now, however, came a dreaded own goal; Ward-Prowse inadvertently tapped on Rashford and his fierce cross was brought home by Bednarek. A triumphant half for United closed out with Shaw once again creating, this time through a precise cross that Cavani headed home with poise. And, there was nearly a fifth when Ramsay dropped Cavani and Dean awarded a penalty before the VAR ruled the challenge was marginally out of the box.
For the second half, Cavani and Shaw were replaced by Martial and Donny van de Beek. Here Fred took Shaw’s position, Van de Beek last and Martial number 9. The Frenchman only had two league goals, so here he had a chance to try to capitalize on United’s relentlessness. Southampton were really hoping to avoid a humiliating hideout that could get closer to territory from last season’s 9-0 setback against Leicester, in which they also had a player sent off. They knew this was not their night when Adams beat De Gea only for the VAR to dismiss the forward offside, possibly because of the much-ridiculed armpit. United didn’t care: it was still a ball-keeping exercise and with Everton here on Saturday, Solskjaer was able to protect Rashford, replacing him with Dan James on the hour. And Martial registered with a sweet breaststroke and volley high on the roof of the net in a much-needed confidence boost for him, before McTominay’s 20-yard zinger made it 6-0.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism