Manchester - Debutant Charlie Austin's late goal earned Southampton a 1-0
victory at Manchester United on Saturday that put the pressure back on beaten
manager Louis van Gaal.
Austin joined Southampton for £4m from
Queens Park Rangers last week and made a spectacular debut as a substitute at
The striker, a prolific scorer for QPR, Burnley and Swindon
Town, had been on the pitch for only seven minutes when he powered home a
header from James Ward-Prowse's 87th-minute free-kick.
His goal handed United a fifth defeat in 10 games, leaving
them five points off the top four, and despite a five-match unbeaten run before
this, Van Gaal's side have won just three of their last 13 games.
That record, and the bland style of football that has
contributed to it, is doing nothing for Van Gaal's job security and while the
Dutchman has been unhappy with speculation about his position, it will only
intensify after this latest dismal defeat.
United have failed to score at home in seven matches this
season and their chances of finishing in the top four to secure Champions
League football next season are diminishing fast.
Having gone 17 years without an away win over United,
Southampton won at Old Trafford for the second season in a row.
United's first-half showing was as bad as anything they have
served up in a dreary campaign, with the home supporters showing their
displeasure before the break.
It took just 35 minutes for the first boos and chants of
'Attack!' to be heard after another aimless ball from the back dropped
harmlessly into the arms of Fraser Forster.
The Southampton goalkeeper had been a virtual spectator as
United's promising start faded away, along with their seemingly fragile
Looking to score for the fifth successive game for the first
time since 2010, Wayne Rooney tried his luck with a couple of efforts, but they
never looked likely to bring him a goal.
Wideman Jesse Lingard, whose focus was more on defending than
supporting United's attacks, saw a tame shot go wide from a rare foray forward.
Indeed, it was Southampton who had the best chance to take
the lead in the first half.
Nine minutes before half-time Dusan Tadic released Sadio
Mane with a perfect pass that the forward failed to turn into a serious effort
on goal with just David de Gea to beat.
The introduction of Juan Mata at half-time in place of
Marouane Fellaini lifted the crowd and United's tempo as they finally started
to stretch the Southampton defence.
Mata and Rooney combined to almost find a way through, but
the Saints remained dangerous on the break and it took a brave defensive header
from Matteo Darmian to prevent Shane Long from reaching Mane's cross.
Darmian was injured in the incident and went off, to be
replaced by Paddy McNair.
It was a further source of concern for Van Gaal, who has
already indicated his desire to try and sign another full-back after losing
Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia to injury.
McNair replaced Darmian in what was virtually a five-man
United defence, and which was almost undone from successive corners as Long and
Victor Wanyama both headed wide.
United did not heed that warning, though, as they continued
to look vulnerable from set-pieces and three minutes from the end of normal
time they were sunk.
Austin is a penalty-area predator and the 26-year-old
cleverly found space to beat De Gea with a perfectly directed header from eight
De Gea prevented a second goal as he saved from Oriol Romeu,
but United could not make the most of that reprieve.
Adnan Januzaj, back as a substitute following his unhappy
loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, shot just wide in stoppage time, but there was
to be no late equaliser to keep the heat off Van Gaal, as the fans booed their
team off the pitch.