[Premier League] Southampton 1-1 Manchester United
Southampton: Rickie Lambert (28)
ManUtd: Juan Mata (54)
The Reds signed off for the 2013/14 season with 1-1 draw with Southampton on a tough afternoon at St Mary’s.
Rickie Lambert put the hosts in front just before the half-hour, although United were angry with his challenge on outgoing captain Nemanja Vidic in the build-up, but Juan Mata’s delicious second-half free-kick ensured a share of the spoils.
Ryan Giggs opted to start Rio Ferdinand and Vidic together for the final time and it was the skipper at the centre of the game’s first moment of controversy on seven minutes, when he accidentally brushed the ball clear with his arm as Adam Lallana threatened, but referee Mike Dean waved away the home side’s appeals.
Three minutes later, Lallana backheeled Victor Wanyama’s edge-of-the-box effort straight at David De Gea, before Luke Shaw, heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, headed over and Lallana, again, fired a curling shot at De Gea. The breakthrough arrived on 28 minutes as Saints deservedly took the lead.
Vidic jumped for a challenge with Lambert, with the ball falling to Steven Davis. As the United skipper lay sprawled on the ground, Lambert escaped the attentions of Ferdinand, latching on to Davis’ neat through-ball and finishing emphatically past De Gea. Vidic, blood streaming from his nose, and the Reds were furious that no free-kick had been given as the Saints celebrated.
After receiving treatment, Vidic returned to power a header wide at the other end, while Chris Smalling fired a shot just past Artur Boruc’s right-hand post.
The Reds came out for the second period with renewed energy and belief and parity was restored on 54 minutes, when Mata curled home an unstoppable 20-yard free-kick. Danny Welbeck and Darren Fletcher went close with headers thereafter but there was little in the way of chances after Mata’s equaliser bar a late chance for Welbeck, which he poked wide.
Tottenham’s victory over Aston Villa ensured there will be no European football at Old Trafford next season as the curtain came down on a disappointing campaign. But, under the guidance of a new manager next season, the Reds will be more determined than ever to come back stronger.
The Match: Farewell Vida
The Match: The hosts were on the front foot for much of the first half, keeping the ball away from United confidently, but David De Gea was not tested that much for all Southampton’s possession. Things turned tetchy once Rickie Lambert’s elbow caught Nemanja Vidic in the run-up to his goal, but the break seemed to cool United’s collective temper and they came out of the blocks with purpose in the second period. But, like the hosts in the first half, the Reds could not convert pressure into many meaningful chances and the game petered out, with a draw just about the right result.
The Goals: United had big complaints about the way the hosts took the lead after Lambert caught Vidic and subsequently drew blood, but the England international gave De Gea no chance with a fine finish seconds later. No chance is exactly what Artur Boruc had as he watched Juan Mata’s beautifully whipped free-kick sail over the wall and past him into the net soon after the restart.
Star Man: Juan Mata. Although, like many of his team-mates, he was unable to make any real impact in the first period as Southampton dominated, the Spaniard’s quick feet and incisive passing always had the Saints’ defence on their toes. He capped his afternoon with a stunning free-kick into the top corner.
Sub-plot: Vidic bade farewell to the club after eight years and he went out in true warrior-like style. He was furious with the challenge on him from Lambert, which led to a bloodied nose for the Serb and a goal for Southampton, but after some treatment and a change of shirt, he went up the other end and headed just wide from a free-kick. A yellow card completed an action-packed first period for the skipper. Whether or not this is the last match we’ll see of fellow defenders Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra in a red shirt (well, navy today), given the end of their contracts this summer, remains to be seen.
Opposition: It’s been an impressive season for the men from the south coast, who finished the season one place below the Reds in eighth. Southampton dominated the opening period and deservedly went in ahead at the break. Captain Adam Lallana, set to be named in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad on Monday, was the pick of the bunch and a constant threat to United’s defence.
In the stands: Around 3,000 Reds made the trip to the south coast and were in fine voice throughout. After some good first-half banter with Saints’ fans, the United faithful spent part of the second period serenading the 'Class of '92's interim manager and coaching staff with some classic songs ("Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, running down the wing", "He scores goals galore, he scores goals"). They ended the day with a touching send-off to Vidic who, after giving his thanks in return, looked emotional as he walked off to embraces from his team-mates. Thanks for the memories, Vida.