Bruno Fernandes proved to be Manchester United’s match-winner, scoring the game’s only goal against Southampton on Saturday. Another watershed moment for new coach Erik ten Hag as he strives to get United playing in his own manner.
After defeating Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford on Monday night, the question was always whether Manchester United could follow it up.
United did not match their effort and brilliance from five days earlier, but Fernandes’ 55th-minute goal was enough to defeat Southampton 1-0 and give United back-to-back victories for the first time since February (188 days.)
Despite goalkeeper David de Gea’s magnificent second-half stop to deny Joe Aribo, United was somewhat comfortable – though generally underwhelming – as the home side pushed for an equalizer in vain. Southampton had lost six of their previous eight home games in all competitions, and they appeared to be lacking in offensive power, but this was as much a test of application and attitude for United as anything else, and they rose to the occasion.
The Ten Hag era is still in its early stages, but another win will give him more momentum to build on when Leicester City visits on Thursday.
“It has to be the standard for Manchester United,” boss Erik ten Hag said after the game. “It has to be normal, but also you celebrate every win because you have to fight for it. We learned from our lesson in Brentford.
“There is room for improvement, but there was also some really good football. The last half an hour was survival, and there I think we can do better. There was not always pressure on the ball, but [the defenders] stayed compact and were straight in the duels. I was comfortable that they would deal with it.
“The finish [from Bruno Fernandes] was magnificent, but the part before, it was a team goal. We built it up from the back, and there were some more moments straight after half-time where it was well played by the team. We have to improve in possession.”
This week, it was reported that Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is looking for a suitable team that can provide the forward Champions League football, with Napoli being the latest club to initiate negotiations. Ten Hag, on the other hand, has made optimistic comments about season preparation with Ronaldo in the squad, so the window will come to a conclusion with uncertainty.
At the very least, Ronaldo got on the field. Harry Maguire sat out the whole game as Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez showed further positive indications of forming a solid center-back pairing. With Chelsea closing in on the big-money acquisition of Wesley Fofana, might Maguire find a way back to his previous team at Leicester? Would he even want to leave?