Southampton 1 - 0 Manchester United

31st August 2003
St. Mary's stadium, Southampton

Southampton won a hard-earned three points on Sunday, with Sir Alex left fuming his day had just got worse, having had a slating in the press from the serialisation of Beckham's much publicised auto-biography that morning. It wasn't that Man Utd were outclassed, more that they were out-worked.

The game started with vigour, but was soon slowed down, not least by the warm sunshine, but also by the sloppy passes and lack of fluent passing. Southampton hassled the ball and allowed the Reds not a moment's peace. They hoped to frustrate Man Utd into making errors, from which hey could capitalise.

The Reds lacked a little in terms of creation and invention, but, judging from the team-sheet, should have been more than a match for Southampton's mediocrity.

Missing the charging Scholes and Solskjaer, Man Utd also lacked numbers when it came to playing in the final third. One of the few attacks of the first half ended with Giggs flicking the ball into Jones' arms from eight-yards out. It had been a well-worked move, and many were hoping it was a sign of things to come.

More disciplined defending, often started by the Soton strikers, led to a goalless first half.

The second started more brightly, with the players rested and seemingly fired up. Though the pace was better, and possibly the passing was too, there was still very little to talk about. Keane flicked the ball on from the corner, only for Svensson to mop up. Only minutes later, Mickael Silvestre was given a free-header from another corner, but he failed to take full advantage forcing a good save from Jones.

Man United's play was further disrupted by Kleberson's fall. He fell badly, and managed to dislocate his shoulder, buying himself two weeks on the side-lines.

With substitute Ronaldo came hope, and creativity. Though he had little of the ball, he performed a few tricks, but was crucially unable to get the ball into the box. He did win the free-kick, from which Giggs hit the cross-bar though, to his credit.

Southampton caught Manchester on the break a few times, though Phillips was caught offside in most of them. One of the attacks culminated in a Beattie header from six-yards out, but Howard was playing well, and tipped the ball over the bar with a heroic backwards leap.

It was Forlan who ahd the next chance, having created space for himself. A curling shot into the top-corner was well waved by Jones.

The Saints kept pressurising, and managed to force Gary Neville into giving away a corner. Whilst that corner was well-defended, the following left the lads with no-where to hide.

The corner was played in, and Howard went up to claim it only to get knocked off the ball by one of them. Beattie was waiting just a yard behind Howard, and was left with an easy header once Howard had failed to claim the ball. It marred an otherwise impressive performance by the American.

United tried and failed to grab the equaliser. As the referee blew full-time, Southampton celebrated as if they had just won the Cup

United worked hard and deserved a point.

Man Utd (4-5-1): Howard; Gary Neville, O'Shea, Silvestre, Phil Neville (Fortune 89); Keane, Kleberson (Ronaldo 67), Djemba-Djemba (Butt 77), Giggs, Forlan; van Nistelrooy.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Le Saux, Lundekvam, Svensson; Fernandes (Svensson 85), McCann (Marsden 61), Oakley, Telfer; Beattie, Phillips (Ormerod 76).

Attendance: 32,066 Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)