Southampton 0-0 Manchester United: Jose Mourinho's fringe men assessed
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 18/05/17 12:12am
A rotated Manchester United side drew 0-0 with Southampton on Wednesday night, but did any of their fringe men play their way into Jose Mourinho's plans for next week's Europa League final? We assess their performances.
Martial lined up on the left-hand side of United's attack at St Mary's. The Frenchman completed more dribbles (three) than anyone else on the pitch and struck the post after a fine run and shot in the second half, but he should have done better than drag his effort wide when played in by Wayne Rooney before the break.
There was also a lapse of concentration that almost proved costly at the other end when he lost possession just outside United's box and forced Phil Jones to bring down Cedric Soares. United were relieved to see Sergio Romero save Dusan Tadic's resulting free kick, but Martial's overall performance is unlikely to push him to the front of Mourinho's pecking order.
Rooney led the line for United after his goal in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Tottenham. There were a couple of nice through balls to Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan that deserved better finishes, but the 31-year-old rarely threatened to score himself, with his only two shots on goal flying high and wide of the target.
Rooney did show impressive work rate, making more high-intensity sprints than any of his team-mates (57) and ranking second for distance covered (11.1km), but United immediately looked more threatening when Marcus Rashford was introduced from the bench. It seems likely that Rooney will have to settle for a supporting role in Stockholm.
Mata had a point to prove having been an unused substitute in each leg of United's Europa League semi-final with Celta Vigo, but he struggled to make the most of his starting chance at St Mary's. The Spaniard, who lined up on the right flank, was a largely peripheral figure until making way for Rashford.
There were some dangerous deliveries into the box and a couple of chances created, but Mata's most notable contribution was to blaze a presentable opportunity over the bar midway through the second period. To make matters worse, the Spaniard headed straight down the tunnel with a possible injury after his substitution.
Teenager Tuanzebe kept his place in the team, starting in central midfield for the second consecutive game. The 19-year-old, a natural centre-back who made his debut against Arsenal at right-back, was tasked with shielding United's back four alongside Marouane Fellaini.
He didn't see much of the ball before his substitution in the second half, but he was never caught out of position and kept his cool when required. His passing accuracy of 92.6 per cent was the highest of any United starter, and there was an eye-catching moment in the first half when he burst forward with the ball at his feet. He is unlikely to feature against Ajax, but Mourinho will be encouraged by the early signs.
The case for the defence
Eric Bailly's suspension for next week's final is a bitter blow for Mourinho but the United boss can take some encouragement from how Chris Smalling and Phil Jones performed at St Mary's. With Marcos Rojo also sidelined, the duo could well be called upon in Stockholm.
Jones was particularly impressive, making some vital interventions to help keep Southampton at bay. The stats showed he made more clearances (nine), more interceptions (three) and more blocks (four) than any of his team-mates. His willingness to put his body on the line is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by his manager.