Manchester United battled in Southampton to grab all three points against a side they have struggled and succeeded in equal measure in recent seasons. It was Romelu Lukaku who scored the only goal in an unmistakably tight contest. Here’s my usual take touching on a finely ground win, Romelu Lukaku and the fully fit Phil hypothesis.
The steady increase in value of Lukaku’s goals
That’s three more points that Lukaku’s goal has won for Manchester United this season. It’s not unreasonable to claim that Manchester United would have drawn or even lost that game last season, but in Lukaku, United have got the flat-track bully they needed to put away sides even when they are not their scintillating best.
Manchester United only had four shots on target on the day but for Romelu Lukaku who normally averages a goal from every 3 shots; it was more than enough. Overall, it’s eight in eight for the Belgian so far, it has been the start that was frankly expected of the 24-year old, and Lukaku, who is determined to make a difference at the biggest of platforms, has not disappointed the manager and the supporters.
Speaking of the support however, the fact that Manchester United continue to enjoy the biggest and arguably the most vocal fan base away from home, which was evident on Saturday, was rather unfortunately conducive to the small section of United fans overstepping the mark by singing the very song that was not well received by the club and more importantly, the player himself.
The player in question, Romelu Lukaku, had come out with a suspiciously fabricated yet logically sound attempt at diffusing the situation, in response to a question about his opinion, on the song that the Manchester United fans had curated and been singing, clearly without any malice intended, but most certainly conformed to an age-old stereotype, not to mention, with racial undertones.
Romelu Lukaku had asked the fans to ‘move on‘ and the club asked them to follow Romelu Lukaku’s lead, but Mancunians being told not to do something to stop them from doing something – has only ended one way and the club, in this case, should have known better.
Manchester United have issued another statement post match, this time condemning the unsavoury incident on Saturday, if you will, but United fans and the club themselves, having been at the forefront of the fight against several key issues plaguing modern football such as rising ticket prices and growing homophobic and anti-semitic insults, will need to come up with a quick and amicable resolution and lead by example, as they always have.
Is Phil Jones United’s most improved player this season?
Phil Jones has enjoyed a strong start to the season almost to the point where he could be considered an automatic first-choice center-half alongside Eric Bailly, when fit. On Saturday, Jones was at his destructive best at the back – blocks, interceptions, clearances and last ditch tackles – Jones was involved in what was their most eventful fixture certainly in their half.
In fact, Southampton enjoyed more possession overall (60%) as about 32% of the game (adjusted for possession) was actually played in United’s own third – with the Red Devils often found pinned with six defenders at the back.
Statistically, United put together their strongest defensive performance at the St.Mary’s and it was rather pleasing that Phil Jones, who is still relatively young for a defender (yes he is), played the anchor role in it.
The away side made 45 clearances in the match as opposed to the 13 Southampton had managed, while Phil Jones alone made 12. Jones also completed an impressive 100% of his tackles and aerial duels (8 in total), capping off a fine performance with a well deserved man of the match award.
Since the start of the season, there has been a marked improvement in consistency from Phil Jones who has yet to feature in 30 PL games in a single season, but under a fundamentally conservative manager in Jose Mourinho, there are signs that this could the season where ‘a fit’ Phil Jones finally nails down his place in the starting eleven.
Stats via @Whoscored unless otherwise stated.