United concedes late to draw 1-1 with Southampton
Southampton highlighted Manchester United's vulnerability under new manager David Moyes by grabbing an 89th-minute equalizer to draw 1-1, leaving the champions eight points off the early pace in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Having lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion in its last home game, United's aura of invincibility at Old Trafford took a further knock when Adam Lallana glanced home from close range to earn Southampton a deserved point.
Robin van Persie put United ahead in the 26th, pouncing on a rebound after Wayne Rooney had a shot blocked, but Moyes' side never looked convincing against opponents who traveled north without any fear.
Why should they, having beaten then-leader Liverpool away already this season?
''We wanted to get a bit of momentum going today but we didn't get it,'' said Moyes, whose tough start to life as Alex Ferguson's successor just became even tougher.
Southampton, one of the surprises of the league in this campaign, started the game in the top four and won't be too far from the top of the table come the end of the season on this evidence.
''Why not?'' responded Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino, when asked if qualifying for the Champions League was a realistic aim. ''We want to keep on believing we can keep on doing well.
''Getting a win at Anfield and getting a positive result here is amazing for our team. It gives the squad so much belief that we can go on and do amazing things.''
With league leader Arsenal showing no sign of slowing up, it could get worse before it gets better for United. Eleven points from eight games is a poor return for a club the size of United, which won the league by 11 points last season.
At times, they were outplayed by Southampton, with Van Persie and the ineffective Rooney being well shackled on the whole.
Southampton just lacked that cutting edge, which was found in the last minute when James Ward-Prowse's inswinging corner was volleyed goalward by Dejan Lovren. Lallana got the slightest of glances near the goal-line to turn the ball in, although there was confusion as to who got the final touch. The Premier League gave the goal to Lallana after deliberation.
''Disappointing to lose the goal late on,'' Moyes said. ''We had opportunities to finish the game off.''
He was probably referring to Rooney's shot that crashed against the bar moments after Van Persie's goal, as well as Adnan Januzaj's swerving shot that was brilliantly kept out one-handed by Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
Hours after signing a new five-year contract with United, the 18-year-old Januzaj was handed another start and another chance to enhance his burgeoning reputation. The Belgium-born winger couldn't repeat his exploits of two weeks ago, when he scored twice in United's come-from-behind win at Sunderland, but it was his incisive pass that led to Van Persie's goal.
Januzaj's curling through-ball to Rooney put the England striker through, but his first-time shot was saved by Boruc. The ball rebounded out to Van Persie, who rounded the goalkeeper and placed the ball to the side of the sprawling Lovren, who was covering on the line.
''He hasn't looked out of place in the team,'' Moyes said.
Southampton started and finished strongly, though, with Italy striker Dani Osvaldo sidefooting straight at goalkeeper David de Gea with the team's best early chance before Nathaniel Clyne brought a smart save from the Spaniard with five minutes left.
There was still time for Lallana to pounce, adding to United's woes.