Manchester United played Southampton at home this past Sunday in an attempt to return to winning ways.
Louis Van Gaal fielded a very offensive side, starting Robin Van Persie and Ángel Di María at strikers, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata in central midfield, Michael Carrick at central defensive midfield, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia at left and right wingbacks. Daley Blind returned from injury, starting at left centerback alongside Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Van Gaal kept his faith in David De Gea in net, keeping new signing Victor Valdez as a substitute.
Southampton sought revenge for the 2-1 loss they suffered at home, hoping to return the favor to United. The game with started with some tense moments for Manchester supporters as Southampton threatened their defensive third early in the match. Still, United settled the game shortly after, managing 60 percent for the match.
Despite holding the majority of possession, United were unable to make good on any of their attempts on goal. In fact, they did not record a single shot on goal, as none of their attempts forced a save from Southampton goalkeeper Frazier Forster.
Southampton seized their first chance, shortly after a Manchester off target cross from Phil Jones. Southampton substitute Dusan Tadic started the decisive move, holding up play well after a goalie punt, finding Graziano Pelle whose shot struck the post and rebounded straight to Tadic. He passed the ball into the net past a diving Tyler Blackett to grab Southampton the lead. An over-exuberant celebration earned Tadic a yellow card for removing his jersey.
Manchester maintained their hold of possession despite the let down, but found a stout response from Southampton, who were regimented excellently in their defensive third. United's best chance came on yet another inaccurate cross from United. Daley Blind's cross from the left side of the box required a parry from Forster, which fell to the right foot of Juan Mata. His attempt on net, taken first time, spun away from the net, apparently mishit.
Shortly after, Blind would play another cross to Juan Mata, who skied his attempt on net far above the crossbar. Mata would send another chance on volley wide to wrap-up a less than stellar performance. The match finished with United pressing, but ultimately falling short to a 1-0 defeat by Southampton.
Van Gaal will be asked many questions about his decisions and selections this past Sunday. For instance, why was Radamel Falcao not used if he was available? Why did Wayne Rooney not play above Di María for parts of the match, if not all of it?
Transfer rumors are swirling about United, even linking Lionel Messi with a possible move in the near future. Paul Pogba of Juventus also finds himself a United target. Right backs Seamus Coleman (Everton) and Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton) are also linked with transfer talks.
Van Gaal's focus will be most importantly placed on the title race and next week's match against Queens Park Rangers. The game will be played away at Loftus Road and aired on NBC Sports Network on Saturday January 17th at 10:00 AM ET.