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Southampton and Manchester United played out a dull goalless draw in the Red Devils’ last away game of the Premier League season on Wednesday.
The hosts had the best chances of the game, but United’s defence held firm as the visitors displayed minimal ambition.
It was predictable this match would have an inconsequential feel as United concentrate on their commitments in the UEFA Europa League and with the Saints safe in the table.
Jose Mourinho made four changes to the side that lost at Tottenham Hotspur. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero started ahead of David De Gea, while Daley Blind was replaced by Matteo Darmian. Marouane Fellaini returned from suspension at the expense of Michael Carrick, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan was chosen ahead of Jesse Lingard.
The Saints completely revamped their attack as Shane Long, Sofiane Boufal and Jay Rodriguez were dropped, with Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic brought in to support striker Manolo Gabbiadini.
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In a very quiet half of football, the action was crammed into the opening six minutes of the game as Eric Bailly was punished for hand ball in the penalty area. Television replays showed the referee had got the decision wrong, with the defender clearly outside of the box.
Gabbiadini stepped up to the spot to take the kick, but the striker’s former Sampdoria team-mate made an excellent save. Romero quickly got down to his right to push the ball wide.
Football writer Liam Canning hailed the Argentina stopper:
Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning
Is Sergio Romero the best back up goalkeeper in the world?
5/17/2017, 7:00:03 PM
United were an entity whose mind was clearly somewhere else, and they rarely played through the midfield to attack.
The hosts remained on the front foot, but the early penalty miss had taken the wind out of their sails.
Sports correspondent Tom Williams advised football fans to avoid the match after a non-event:
Tom Williams @tomwfootball
Half-time: Southampton 0-0 Man United. If you’re not watching, congratulations.
5/17/2017, 7:32:31 PM
Tadic tested Romero immediately after the half-time interval, but the ‘keeper was equal as the power of the shot stung his palms at full stretch.
Southampton were the aggressors as United sat deep and attempted to counter attack.
James Ward-Prowse twice went close to breaking the deadlock, but Romero was in inspired form, making a world-class save to frustrate the hosts.
Mourinho replaced Juan Mata with Marcus Rashford midway through the second half, and the swap injected life into United.
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Anthony Martial played with more freedom as Rashford stretched the defence, and the Frenchman’s shot cannoned off the post.
Phil Jones was in solid form for the visitors as he put his body on the line to stop the Saints’ attackers, but it appeared United would cave in under the constant pressure.
However, despite plenty of possession, the hosts could not beat Romero, who was named man of the match for his myriad of saves.