It was a truly brilliant comeback for Manchester United. Two goals from an Edinson Cavani, another decisive performance from Bruno Fernandes and good changes from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw United come from two goals behind to beat Southampton on Sunday afternoon.

Cavani emulates van Persie to mark stunning captain

It was reminiscent of Robin van Persie. World-class movement throughout and clinical finishing. Edinson Cavani proved his worth at St. Mary’s. Solskjaer brought him on at half-time, the Uruguayan took a minute to tie his shoelaces up but once he moved into the middle of the pitch, he dragged the Saints defence apart.

Southampton v Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

His first goal was evidence of his great anticipation. The deflected shot from Fernandes came in, Cavani threw his body towards it and converted. The second was also a header, this time as he moved perfectly off the shoulder of his marker and emphatically directed it past McCarthy. His celebration was equally emphatic. A brilliant signing.

Solskjaer makes decisive changes

With Anthony Martial developing an illness overnight, Solskjaer undoubtedly had to change his starting line-up late on. Still, United started the game well. When they trailed at half-time, the Norwegian made the changes needed. Greenwood, who had not played poorly but missed two good opportunities, was taken off.

Cavani came on. Solskjaer deserves credit for first coping with the Martial illness and then changing things at half-time.

 

Van de Beek and Fernandes need time together

The pairing started the game in a diamond and showed some good combination play. Fernandes offers high risk-high reward; van de Beek plays low risk-high efficiency. Together, they offer a lot to United.

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (2L) celebrates with Manchester United's Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani after scoring during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on November 29, 2020.
(Photo by Naomi Baker / POOL / AFP)

What needs work, though, is their play in the final third at times. Van de Beek constantly looks for the cutback from the byline. Bruno holds deep in the box, rather than moving for the Van de Beek pullback. If they can work together to make more use of that, they could be a fearsome pairing.

Individual quality lets United down in first half, not the tactics

United went down 2-0 despite a decent first-half. That will be quickly forgotten but it’s worth pointing out that the deficit was caused by individual lapses in quality.

Greenwood, Fernandes and Rashford all failed to convert chances they should have scored. Fernandes was guilty of conceding possession too easily in his own half. Alex Telles couldn’t get up high enough to prevent the corner from getting to Bednarek and Fred gave away a silly foul to let James Ward-Prowse scored a second. Those individual mistakes made it appear a poor performance but in reality, the set-up worked fine.

United full-backs offer big contribution

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has improved his attacking play, that’s for sure. With more confidence and game time, he’ll start reaching the levels expected of him. On at least three occasions he did his marker with a skill or a shift of the body. It’s a huge position.

On the other side, Alex Telles caused havoc. His potential threat is as important as the threat he truly offers. The Saints defence sprinted back to recover whenever Telles got the ball.

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