Manchester United suffered a first defeat in 12 games and surrendered third place in the Barclays Premier League after Southampton secured a shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford with Dusan Tadic’s solitary strike.
The Reds controlled large chunks of the game but ultimately struggled to break down an organised Saints team that has increasingly realistic hopes of earning Champions League qualification this season.
Louis van Gaal made seven changes to the XI that started against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup third round, notably with Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind both returning from injury while Luke Shaw also lined up against his former club for the first time since joining the Reds in the summer. Midweek signing Victor Valdes took his place on the bench, although Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was absent from the matchday squad.
The visitors started brightly and almost broke the deadlock in the first minute when England international Nathaniel Clyne burst forward down the right flank to drag a low shot wide of David De Gea’s right post. United quickly regrouped and applied pressure to Fraser Forster’s goalmouth with a couple of teasing crosses, before Di Maria cut inside from the right wing to fire a powerful shot off just wide.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman had to make a switch in the 18th minute when Toby Alderweireld suffered an apparent hamstring injury, though it took two minutes to introduce Florin Gardos and United almost capitalised when Di Maria’s 20-yard strike flew wide in the meantime.
United controlled the ball in an even first half but often misplaced passes at crucial times, which allowed Southampton to counter with great power and pace. The visitors twice went close to scoring through captain Jose…