Manchester United weathered a Southampton storm after being reduced to ten men in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Casemiro picked up his second red card in three Premier League games to put his side under the cosh for over half the match, with the Red Devils and the Saints playing out a thrilling but ultimately goalless encounter.
Southampton showed great endeavour from the off despite the huge challenge facing them and had the first half-sight of goal. The Saints worked a free-kick around the box before play switched to an open Kyle Walker-Peters, who fired straight at David De Gea from a tight angle.
After a longer spell of possession, United found a way to open the visitors up, with Bruno Fernandes peeling over to the left and helping release Marcus Rashford into the channel, but like Walker-Peters his effort went straight down the throat of the opposition goalkeeper.
United had De Gea to thank for keeping the scores level midway through the first half. A failed clearance from Aaron Wan-Bissaka fell to Romain Perraud, and his cross was met by Theo Walcott after ghosting in ahead of Luke Shaw, forcing the Spain stopper into a flying save with his header.
A perfect cross from Shaw found the head of Wout Weghorst, but he was put off by the leap of Armel Bella-Kotchap and couldn’t get any direction on his effort, with Bazunu calmly claiming it.
But the game changed just after the half-hour mark when Casemiro was sent off for a high challenge on Carlos Alcaraz, with Anthony Taylor changing the yellow card to a red following a VAR review.
The following free-kick from James Ward-Prowse – who needs to score just one more to tie David Beckham’s Premier League record – was deflected narrowly wide off of Rashford.
At the other end, a free-kick from Fernandes sailed over the Southampton defence and right into the path of Raphael Varane, who was denied by Bazunu from close range.
United wanted a penalty towards the end of the first half when Rashford’s low ball into the box ricocheted off the arm of Bella-Kotchap, but their furious and understandable appeals were somehow dismissed following a VAR check.
Just after the break, Southampton nearly found themselves ahead when a scything cross from Walker-Peters was deflected towards his own goal by substitute Scott McTominay, but Wan-Bissaka retreated and was able to hook the ball off the line.
Another free-kick from Ward-Prowse clipped the top of the crossbar as the Saints, while Walker-Peters made a great recovery challenge to deny Shaw’s half-volley from just inside the box.
The visitors should have taken the lead when a stray pass from Wan-Bissaka was intercepted by Kamaldeen Sulemana and he set Walcott through on goal, only for his dink to be clawed behind by De Gea.
United’s best chance yet to break the deadlock saw Fernandes smash the inside of the post from the very edge of the box, with Bazunu getting a vital fingertip on the ball.
Southampton went down the other end and smacked the post themselves – Walker-Peters was this time the unlucky striker, cutting in from a left-hand corner and letting fly with his weak foot.
A fast and loose game was brought to an end after four minutes of stoppage time, with United moving two points clear of fourth-placed Tottenham but with a game in hand, while rock-bottom Southampton are now two points from safety.
Manchester United player ratings
GK: David De Gea – 7/10 – Pulled out a few good saves to keep United in the contest.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 5/10 – Had as many goal-saving moments as ones where he was the one putting United in danger.
CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Untroubled even when United went down to ten men. Denied by Bazunu.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 8/10 – Booked very early on for elbowing Alcaraz in the chest. Kept his cool from there on in and was a reliable distributor from the back.
LB: Luke Shaw – 5/10 – Walcott and Walker-Peters were involved a fair bit, which is a bit of an indictment on left-back Shaw.
CM: Casemiro – 1/10 – After just two red cards in 336 games for Real Madrid, he’s now picked up two in 37 for United.
CM: Bruno Fernandes – 5/10 – Actually suited playing a little deeper with 11 men, but after Casemiro’s red card, Fernandes was often caught in possession and played a few hospital passes backwards.
RM: Antony – 4/10 – Offered very little, though you could probably partly attribute this to Casemiro’s red card changing the game.
AM: Jadon Sancho – 5/10 – Shunted all over the frontline trying to make things tick after United were reduced to ten men.
LM: Marcus Rashford – 4/10 – Often found himself on the fringes of the game. Tried to win a penalty with a rather awful dive over Bazunu.
CF: Wout Weghorst – 5/10 – An unfortunate casualty of Casemiro’s red card, replaced by Scott McTominay to bring more balance to the team. Put himself about when on the pitch and was a useful target man.
Scott McTominay (44′ for Weghorst) – 5/10 – Tried to offer stability in addition to his physical presence but he just isn’t that sort of player.
Alejandro Garnacho (73′ for Sancho) – 5/10
Facundo Pellistri (73′ for Antony) – 6/10
Harry Maguire (90′ for Martinez) – N/A
Fred (90′ for Garnacho) – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 6/10 – Not a lot he could have done after the red card. United still played with intent despite that disadvantage.