Manchester United's record 6-1 win against Saints this season finally put to bed any idea of Saints supposed hoodoo on the champions. At home however, Saints still had the memories of that great 6-3 win back in 96/97.
Could Saints take such form from the intimidating Dell into St. Mary's ? Saints went into the game having won four from the last six games. Certainly there could be no better time to take on Alex Ferguson's side. We'll try to gloss over the fact that United had won everyone of the last six games to make us feel better about our chances.
Saints Christmas and New Year success has seen them move out of the relegation zone, but in 15th position this form has to be sustained in order to ensure safety. A win today would see Saints move up to 11th while defeat would see us stay only four points above the drop zone.
or man Utd, a win would see them topple Newcastle United form the top of the table. With the best goal difference in the league their defensive difficulties really don't seem to have made too much difference.
Saints line up with a mostly settled team. There are however a couple of noticeable absences from the midfield. The back line of Jones; Dodd, Bridge, Lundekvam and Williams; In midfield Telfer was out right with Svensson and Marsden in the middle and Fabrice Fernandes making his first full debut on the left. Up front were the automatic choices of Beattie and Pahars. How would Saints fare without the skills of Oakley and Delap in the centre of their midfield. Jo Tessem's absence form the entire squad spoke volumes about his status in the club while Augustin Delgado made his first appearance on the bench.
Another record crowd of 31 885 turned out to see if Southampton could take down the champions...
Williams fouls van Nistelrooy . Beckham's freekick goes round the wall. Jones has it covered as it goes wide.
2- Saints take the lead !!!
Silvestre's pass is cut out and the ball passed to Dodd. His cross goes into the box where Beattie heads it down past Bartez to the left.
Southampton 1-0 Manchester United
7- Williams just manages to clear the ball from van Nisterooy on the penalty spot.
8- van Nistelrooy gets into the box and equalises for United. Scholes and Beckham had linked up well and van Nistelrooy's pace does the rest. van Nistelrooy has scored in seven consecutive games, which equals a Premiership record.
Southampton 1-1 Manchester United
13- Pahars makes a good cross into the box beyond Bartez but Saints can't capitalise on it.
14 - Solskjaer wins United's second corner. Beckham puts it to the edge of the box where Pahars clears.
16- Beckham's cross goes just beyond Solskjaer. More good build up play from Scholes in setting the move up.
17- From the right, Telfer puts in a good cross but it falls beyond Beattie.
17- Dodd curls a cross in from the right and United concede their first corner. Telfer takes it and Neville clears. Dodd puts the ball back in and Saints win another corner. Telfer's poor effort is cleared at the near post.
22- Beattie goes down in United's penalty area, landing awkwardly. Gary Neville immediately motions for a physio and it looks pretty serious. Beattie is taken off minutes later to a standing ovation. It's a major blow for Southampton as Beattie's form and workrate have been immense under Strachan.
25- Substitution Beattie is replaced by Augustin Delgado making his first appearance for the club.
27- Scholes kicks the ball against Williams after the whistle had gone for a freekick but escapes punishment.
28- Pahars is taken down on the edge of the box by Phil Neville. Of course Beattie, who scored a great freekick against Chelsea is no longer on the field so Fernandes takes it. It's deflected out for a corner.
29- Telfer takes the flagkick and United clear easily.
29- Pahars runs at the defence, Delgado making a run. Pahars pass goes off a defender for a corner. Telfer's corner is caught by Bartez.
31- Delgado heads out to Svensson on the edge of the box. Svensson's shot is deflected out wide. The resultant cross reaches Delgado in between the two centre backs. Augustin's header hit the post.
Saints win a corner and a panicky United defence get it clear.
Saints are piling on the pressure on United's notoriously shaky defence.
33- Delgado gets through and knocks it out to Fernandes. Marsden tries to get on the end of Telfers cross from the right but Gary Neville clears. A lovely passing move by Southampton.
34- Man Utd get a corner after good work from Beckham and Solskjaer. United are always are threat going forward and Saints will need a second goal to have any security in this game.
35-Fernandes gets the ball in from the left to Delgado. He lays it back to Pahars whose shot is slightly wide.
37- Veron concedes the corner by tackling Dodd after good build up play by Southampton. There are plenty of red and white shirts in the box to be on the receiving end of Bridge's corner but it's a poor one and reaches none of them.
38- A Beckham freekick is caught comfortably by Jones. His goalkick rather pointlessly goes all the way backup the park to Bartez.
40- Delgado on the break tries for goal. His shot is blocked by Bartez and Pahars follow up g hits the top of the bar !
Having hit the woodwork twice, will Saints take something form the game ?
43- Fernandes' cross from the left falls straight to Bartez.
44- A yellow card for Marsden as he goes in late on Veron.
Fernandes immediately gives away another freekick in the range of Beckham. Can Saints go in level at half-time. Not a chance as Beckham effort evades the wall and Paul Jones.
Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
Saints deserved to be winning this game and yet find themselves behind at the interval.
Saints entire outlook to the game has changed with a late first half goal. Now instead of going for a win they have to push up for an equaliser.
45- Man United bring on Irwin for Phil Neville.
46- Another Beckham freekick in a dangerous position. Jones punches it clear.
49- Jones has to come out and clears to Delgado.
United look really positive in this second half and seem keen to attack.
49- Veron makes a terrible pass on the edge of his own box, giving it to Pahars. The Latvian tries and fails to chip Bartez.
52- Pahars makes a great run and cross. No one can get on the end of it for Southampton.
54- Blanc body checks Pahars on the edge of the United area conceding a free kick. Blanc picks up a yellow card. Fernandes takes it and puts it in to the back post. There are two Saints runners but United clear it only to give away another free kick
56- This time, Fernandes' effort goes straight to Bartez after a retake.
56- Marsden gives the ball away and van Nistelrooy comes forward, passing to Beckham for the cross. The ball reaches Solskjaer who heads it against the bar.
59- Fernandes' cross in from the left reaches the head of Delgado who puts it over.
61- Saints make a change. Fernandes comes off for Ormerod.
63- Solskjaer gets United's third taking the game beyond Southampton's reach. Scholes pulled the defenders away from the Norwegian whose shot Jones gets a hand to but can't prevent it from going in.
Southampton 1-3 Manchester United
64- Solskjaer's run from the left produces a powerful drive which goes just wide.
United have been on top all throughout the second half and Saints don't look as though they will come back from a two goal deficit.
67- A great United move with Solskjaer passing to van Nistelrooy. He surges forward and lays it off to Keane. Keane's cross searches out Neville in the box but United fail to make it four.
69- Beckham's corner is cleared form practically the goal line form Bridge.
70- Telfer's cross from the right is headed clear by Blanc in the penalty area.
71- Pahars has a long range effort but it's easy for Bartez.
71- Jones goes down to save at the feet of van Nistelrooy.
74- Delagdo breaks and gets the ball to Pahars but he can't get through the United defence to trouble Bartez.
75 - Veron attempts a long range shot which Jones has to parry.
78- Delgado tries a bicycle kick from the penalty spot but it goes over the bar.
United are now completely in control of this game, and are putting together some lovely confident passing moves. Saints have hardly an opportunity of getting the ball let alone constructing an attack.
82- Saints get into the penalty area from Telfer. Pahars gets the ball to Delgado whose header brings out a great save from Bartez.
84- Dodd puts the ball into the United box but Keane clears it easily.
85- Giggs comes on for van Nistelrooy..
United simply pass the ball around running down the clock. It's depressing to watch Saints unable to get the ball.
91- Veron shoots from distance getting his side a late corner. Keane shoots form the flagkick but Jones saves well.
92- Bridge gets the final effort of the match shooting well over from distance.
Final Score Southampton 1-3 Manchester United
We put in an excellent performance for the first half. Losing Beattie was a major blow and I don't think we ever recovered form United's second just before half time. United came back out and dominated, getting a third and retaining their composure for the remainder of the match.
We have a few more tough games ahead which we will be doing well to get points from. After that we will see how many points we are from the bottom. The remaining fixtures should get us enough points to stay safe for another year.