Anthony Martial appeared to secureManchester United a win overSouthampton, but they were denied atthe death.
Manchester United missed the chance to go third in the Premier League as a last-gasp Michael Obafemi equaliser secured Southampton a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford on Monday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men went into the contest in fine form but struggled to control proceedings against the tenacious Saints, who levelled in the sixth minute of additional time.
A busy start from Southampton led to the visitors taking an early lead through Stuart Armstrong but United hit back, Anthony Martial teeing up Marcus Rashford for the equaliser before scoring his 50th Premier League goal to put the hosts in front.
United had chances to increase their lead but failed to take them, and Obafemi scored from close range right near the end, leaving the Red Devils fifth in the table.
Their destiny in the Champions League remains in United’s hands – they go to fourth-placed Leicester City on the final day of the season – but this result is a major blow for Solskjaer.
Having seen a James Ward-Prowse error go unpunished by Martial a few moments earlier, Southampton took the lead in the 12th minute when Danny Ings robbed Paul Pogba and fed Nathan Redmond, whose cross picked out Armstrong for an emphatic finish.
United eventually clicked into gear with 20 minutes played – Martial bringing down Pogba’s pass in the box and finding Rashford, who slotted home.
The excellent Martial then made amends for his earlier miss with a fine solo effort, blasting beyond Alex McCarthy after breezing past Kyle Walker-Peters.
Saints were somewhat fortunate to make it to half-time with 11 men, Oriol Romeu avoiding punishment despite taking Mason Greenwood out off the ball.
The visitors had another let-off in the 68th minute, Ryan Bertrand making a vital block a few yards from goal to deny Rashford after he had linked brilliantly with Martial.
That provided Southampton with the belief to put the pressure on in the final stages and, with United down to 10 men due to a head injury to substitute Brandon Williams, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side sealed a deserved point.
Ward-Prowse’s corner was flicked on by Jan Bednarek and Obafemi beat Victor Lindelof to nudge the ball over the line from a yard out.
What does it mean? A missed opportunity for United
Given United looked like they were heading for third in the table, slumping to a late draw will feel like a defeat to fans, particularly after Manchester City’s UEFA competition ban was lifted earlier in the day.
Nevertheless, a top-four spot is still there for the taking. The trip to Leicester looks set to be crucial, while both the Foxes and Chelsea – who stay third for the time being – have significantly trickier run-ins.
Martial on fire
This has certainly been Martial’s best season in a United shirt – and not just because of his raw numbers. Monday’s performance also highlighted a new-found tenacity in the Frenchman, who has regularly been accused of being too aloof during his time at Old Trafford. Unfortunately for Solskjaer, few others were on his level.
Pogba off his game
Since the resumption last month, Pogba has been excellent. However, against Southampton he struggled at times. He failed to cope with the visitors’ hassling in the first half, and although he did provide some important passes in the final third, he was sacrificed for Fred in the second period as he was simply not offering enough.
Key Opta facts
– Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 18 games in all competitions (W13 D5), last having a longer run between April-November 2010 (29 games).
– The Red Devils fielded the same starting XI for the fifth consecutive Premier League game, the first time they have done so since a run of six in January-February 1993.
– Bruno Fernandes has been involved in 14 Premier League goals (7 goals, 7 assists). The Portuguese has had a hand in eight of his side’s last 12 league goals, too.
– Martial is the 10th player to score 50 Premier League goals for Manchester United – no team has had more different players reach the milestone in the competition (Liverpool also on 10).
– Armstrong has been involved in five goals in his last six Premier League games (2 goals, 3 assists) – as many as he had been in his previous 40 in the competition.
United head to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace on Thursday as they look to bounce back from this setback, while Southampton host Brighton and Hove Albion the same day.