Southampton struck an 89th minute equaliser to extend their unbeaten run to five matches in the Barclays Premier League.
Despite trailing for a long stretch of the game, Saints never looked out of the contest at Old Trafford, and yet another strong second half performance from the visitors saw them rewarded with the sort of late drama we’ve become more accustomed to from the reigning champions over the years.
The leveller came late in the day, but the source of the goal was none too clear at the time. James Ward-Prowse’s corner was met by a combination of Dejan Lovren and United defender Phil Jones. Although who got the final touch was not definitive, with Adam Lallana also a contender as the ball brushed past his foot on the way into the net. The supporters to the right side of the goal cared little, as they celebrated a deserved equaliser.
Saints had been behind to a Robin van Persie strike on 26 minutes after the Dutchman kept his composure to roll the ball home following Artur Boruc’s good, low save from Wayne Rooney.
United were in decent form though, as displayed by a tally of two chunks taken out of the woodwork surrounding Boruc’s goal, whilst the goalkeeper himself was at his best to deny Adnan Januzaj in particular during the second 45.
The longer the game went on with that slender lead though, the more Saints sensed an opportunity, and with a record of six of their seven league goals prior to this game having come in the second half of matches, it was no surprise to eventually see seven of eight arrive to maintain their solid form.
Mauricio Pochettino made two changes to the team that beat Swansea City prior to the international break. Luke Shaw returned at left back in place of Danny Fox, whilst Jay Rodriguez also came into the starting eleven, pushing Rickie Lambert down to the bench for the first time this season.
Rodriguez took up a wider role to allow Steven Davis to play more centrally, a position he excelled in with his native Northern Ireland during the recent international fixtures.
Gaston Ramirez’s late return from playing for Uruguay in midweek meant that the midfielder did not make the 18 man squad.
Saints got the game underway, with Steven Davis and Dani Osvaldo taking kick-off towards the Stretford End. They lined up in their changed strip of black shirts and white shorts on a clear and mild day inside Old Trafford.
The visitors immediately pushed forward from kick-off, pressing the Red Devils early on with a series of crosses inside the opening two minutes of action before United ‘keeper David De Gea was finally able to claim a touch.
It was an open start to the contest, as both teams had to be on their toed defensively. In the eighth minute, Saints created a decent opening when Steven Davis rescued the ball from the right touchline to send in a cross towards the far post, where Rodriguez met it, but couldn’t keep his effort down as De Gea remained untroubled.
Rodriguez connected to a corner from Adam Lallana soon after, though was unable to really test the United backline.
At the other end, Robin van Persie almost broke the deadlock in audacious fashion by attempting a first time dink over Artur Boruc from an acute angle, but his ambitious effort bounced wide of the left post.
Boruc was made to work in the 12th minute though, when he got down smartly to keep out van Perise’s low strike from a cutback on the left side that the Dutchman did well to get his shot away from.
Victor Wanyama offered the hosts a reminder of Saints’ danger on the break as he blasted wide after picking the ball up from midfield to create a chance for himself.
Having contained the hosts for the opening 20 minutes, the Old Trafford crowd started to become restless, with Saints beginning to increase the pressure in attack.
With Rooney trying to do too much Wanyama’s pressure brought the ball to Lallana who squared it for Osvaldo, but the striker rolled his shot towards a comfortable looking save for De Gea.
But, after two correct offside calls against the hosts, one of which van Persie ‘scored’ from it was United who went on to break the deadlock in the 26th minute.
A timely burst from Rooney this time saw the striker beat the offside trap to go one on one with Boruc. The Saints ‘keeper was the victor in that particular duel, but the ball landed invitingly for VAN PERSIE who kept his cool to round both Boruc and Fonte before rolling a shot into the net which he did despite Lovren’s best efforts to clear the ball form the line.
It was almost a quickfire double for the hosts as Rooney then smacked the crossbar after getting on to Evra’s cross. The striker took one touch to control the ball before firing a rising strike from 12 yards that clattered the woodwork. The strike left Boruc rooted to his spot, but fortunately there was no follow up from a red shirt.
Saints looked for a response with Osvaldo taking matters into his own hands to try and spark a break before he ran into trouble, and soon after that, an advanced Dejan Lovren lined up a dipping strike from range which De Gea had to watch the whole way before gathering on his goal line.
On 39 minutes Morgan Schneiderlin became the first Saint to go into the book after a tap on Adnan Januzaj which prevented the youngster from breaking into the visitors’ half.
There was a further worry for Saints a minute later when Osvaldo briefly limped out of the game to receive treatment on his left foot which had been trampled on by Fellaini as the two went up for a header in United’s half. Osvaldo re-entered play for the final four minutes of the half, and was frustrated to be called offside when he made a late surge into the area to get onto Schneiderlin’s dinked pass.
Inside two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the half Saints were awarded a free-kick when Wanyama was bundled to the floor by van Persie just outside the area, but the visitors couldn’t capitalise on the situation as Shaw’s set piece went into the wall.
HALF-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 SOUTHAMPTON
There were no changes at the break from either team as Saints sought a similarly strong start to the second half as they made to the first.
They didn’t disappoint in that respect, as the visitors made a some neat exchanges in United’s half inside the opening five minutes of action, earning themselves a corner after Lallana’s attempt to convert Shaw’s cross from the byline was cut out in the nick of time.
From the resulting set piece taken by Lallana, Dejan Lovren saw a header cleared off the line from van Persie, who had stayed in his position inside the near post.
Saints were smart at the other end to deny Fellaini with a slide challenge, but continued to make more inroads further forward, by continuing to press their opponents through midfield.
United’s Januzaj went into the book for a scything challenge on Nathaniel Clyne down the right flank, which preceded the introduction of Rickie Lambert for the visitors.
The England frontman came on for Rodriguez in attack, and was almost immediately involved from the resulting free-kick on Clyne, but the up and under delivery into the area was dealt with by De Gea before Lambert could sneak in.
At the other end, Nani tried to win a free-kick in an encouraging position on the edge of the area but the referee Mike Jones felt that the winger had gone to ground too easily spotted under the challenge from Shaw.
Wanyama was however booked for the visitors moments later when he fouled Januzaj on the touchline.
Rooney was flagged for offside when he put the ball into the net on the hour mark, but the frontman almost went on to tee up van Persie from a corner, with the Dutchman’s header coming back off the crossbar as United struck the woodwork again.
Further pressure from the hosts then saw Boruc make a terrific one handed save to deny Januzaj from distance, with the Pole at full stretch to claw away a dangerous looking strike towards the top left corner.
The Saints fans in the corner of the ground tried to rouse the visitors back into it, and with 25 minutes remaining there appeared plenty of time for that possibility to materialise.
James Ward-Prowse was introduced as a 66th minute substitute in place of Steven Davis, and the youngster was involved straightaway as he put in the free-kick for Osvaldo to head wide after a foul on Wanyama in midfield.
The header was followed by a first change from United as Nani went off to be replaced by Ryan Giggs on 68.
Saints maintained their intentions to push United, and the fresh legs of Lambert and Ward-Prowse appeared to aid that quest. However, it was Lallana who was central to a brilliant free-flowing move on 73 which resulted in the skipper testing De Gea from the edge of the area with a low strike.
Osvaldo poked wide at the near post as the contest intensified. However, the best was to come as Schneiderlin bamboozled his way through United’s midfield before firing wildly wide. Despite the poor strike, the mazy run which preceded the shot had certainly earned him the right to shoot.
In the 76th minute, United replaced Fellaini with Danny Welbeck, and the substitute almost had a great chance to go one on one with Boruc as Januzaj slid the ball through to him, but a wonderful interception from Schneiderlin denied the striker from getting through.
Osvaldo headed Ward-Prowse’s cross wide as play entered the final ten minutes, an effort which preceded the last substitution for Saints as Guly do Prado replaced Wanyama on 82.
The late pressure from Saints was encapsulated in Clyne’s burst into the box on the right where the full back got on the end of Lallana’s clever short pass, but the defender’s effort was well blocked by De Gea at his near post.
Fonte was booked on 85 for a foul on van Persie on the halfway line as he bundled the striker to the ground on halfway.
The visitors were paid a massive compliment as Rooney was replaced by Chris Smalling with four minutes remaining, but the change didn’t work in the hosts’ favour as Saints drew level in the 89th minute.
A corner from Ward-Prowse was whipped into the middle of the area, where a United defender’s outstretched leg under pressure from Lovren diverted the ball back towards goal where it rolled under De Gea for a priceless equaliser via a touch from LALLANA.
Prior to five minutes of additional time for stoppages being added on, Osvaldo almost turned the game on its head as he spun to strike narrowly wide of the left post.
Forced to come back out at Saints, United opened the game out further in the additional time, with the visitors almost stealing all three points late on when Lallana’s low strike was saved low by De Gea.
The final whistle arrived soon after, sparking a huge roar of celebration from the corner of the ground as Saints took a valuable point from Manchester.
FULL-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON
Manchester United team: David De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra (c), Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini (Danny Welbeck 76), Luis Nani (Ryan Giggs 68), Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney (Chris Smalling 86), Robin van Persie
Unused substitutes: Anders Lindegaard, Javier Hernandez, Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama (Guly do Prado 82), Steven Davis (James Ward-Prowse 66), Adam Lallana (c), Dani Osvaldo, Jay Rodriguez (Rickie Lambert 56)
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Jack Cork, Calum Chambers, Jos Hooiveld
Referee: Mike Jones