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The 5-1 win over Leeds United was supposed to be the start of a Premier League title challenge for Manchester United. The opening 25 minutes of the second match of the season at Southampton looked promising but Manchester United failed to take advantage of a nervy looking home team.
The Saints found the back of the net in the 30th minute via a deflected shot but the chance came about following Manchester United possession in the defensive third.
🗣 “It’s a point from a losing position but it’s not what we wanted.”
More from the boss 👇#MUFC | #SOUMUN
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 22, 2021
Having scored the equalising goal early in the second half, Manchester United took control of the game but failed to create the one good goal scoring chance to take the lead and it was Southampton who came on strong in the final 15 minutes of the match and they should have scored the second goal.
Manchester United were without new signings Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho in the starting line-up and the pair will add more quality to their respective positions. Aside from being a great defender, Varane should bring some composure to Manchester United when they are in possession of the ball in their defensive third.
Throughout the game against Southampton, the hosts looked most dangerous when Manchester United had the ball around their own penalty area. Not one player who took possession of the ball when in a defensive area looked confident in what they were trying to do and the link-up play between the defenders and central midfielders was alarmingly poor.
Fred remains an erratic performer in central midfield and was not helped by the inclusion of Nemanja Matic, who looked off the pace for much of the game. Neither player managed to connect the defence and attack with any fluidity or confidence throughout the 90 minutes and it remains a serious area of concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Not that it should come as a surprise to the Norwegian manager as central midfield has long been a position where Manchester United have struggled. Not only was there a lack of energy in the central midfield area for Manchester United but also a lack of quality when on the ball and that continues to set alarm bells ringing at Old Trafford as the transfer window ends.
Matic had only a 75% passing accuracy against Southampton with Fred leaving the pitch with a 77.5% passing accuracy, way below the standard expected of a Manchester United central midfield player.
There is no doubt, if Manchester United are to challenge for the top prizes this season, they are going to have to change things in central midfield.
That could mean the addition of another player before the end of the transfer window or even a change in formation to accommodate a player with the composure and vision to link-up the play from the back without giving the ball away cheaply when under pressure.