Stacks Image p984695_n984467

Southampton 1

•  Chaplow 45

Man United 2

•  Owen 65
•  Hernandez 75

I am bowing to pressure in posting this report! I guess most have seen the game either at St Mary's or on television. I only saw the game from my seat in the Itchen block 9 so might have missed some things that TV picked up on.

I arrived at the stadium at 2.15 in preparation for my pre match sponsors tour. The first person I saw in reception was Sir Bobby Charlton accompanied by his wife. What a great modest unassuming guy Bobby is. As a an admirer of his skills at International level and for Man United it was a pleasure to meet him. There was already a buzz around the stadium with security tight, even with 3 hours to kick off there were plenty of fans around, though it was bitingly cold. Excitement was in the air.

My tour party was from Fuller group, of which Leon Crouch is top man, it was his family on the tour, two daughters plus their children and friends. What a lovely family, daughters and grandchildren of Leon are true saints fans and great to be with. The Match sponsors were PIpestock, a local Hampshire based company and again all saints fans. Before I met up with these guests I had the pleasure of meeting nigel Adkins Mum and Dad, brother -in- law and his partner. Angie, Nigel's wife did the introductions. I can assure you Nigel's Mum and Dad are a lovely northern couple, down to earth just like their son and obviously proud of Nigel.

Again there was a great atmosphere in the dressing room and I was enjoying every minute. I had a quick word with Adam Lallana and Dean Hammond who were in there with Nigel and the kit man. As we walked down the tunnel there seemed to be tv cameramen everywhere and the stewards were getting their last minute instructions. The first thing i noticed were the giant inflated balloon men, the sort of thing you see at big games on the continent and at Wembley. A true big game atmosphere was building.

As the teams came out there was a terrific roar from both sets of fans. United had the bulk of the Northam End as they had taken up their allocated 15% of the total gate, 4, 250. I was disappointed to see so many empty seats in the saints areas. Probably a thousand empty seats. Something wrong with the marketing of the game surely! I could have brought at least 10 more people (all saints fans) if had I been given the option of extra tickets even at the last minute. Wouldn't have wanted the extra game tickets as well though.

The saints team was Bialowski, Butterfield, Fonte, Seaborne and Harding, at the back. Chaplow and Schneiderlin were centre midfield. Not sure of what shape we were playing but Chamberlain was over on the left of midfield with Guly, Barnard and Lambert making some sort of triangle. Confused? Well I was. The subs bench was KD 'keeper, Richardson, Dickson, Martin, Doble, Gobern and new boy N'gessan. Not a bench that would have frightened Alex Ferguson.

In the circumstances I will name the Man U team. Not in any positional order, but in the order printed on the Team Sheet handed to the press. ( i always get one, a casual staff perk for me.) In goal Anders Lindegaard, Michael Owen, Anderson, Smalling, Hernadez, Scholes, Fabio Da silva, O'Shea, Evans, Obeertan and Gibson. No idea what formation but certainly confusing for anyone reading this team sheet, looked like Owen was at full back! Now how about this for an 'impact bench' Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Nani, Wes Brown, Bebe and Kuszczak.

Before kick off Man United striker Javier Hernadez knelt down hands clasped in prayer for almost a minute. Not seen that before, was he worried? Saints kicked off towards the massed ranks of fans at Northam End, Fonte was skipper. There was no great tempo to start with but it was saints who took the upper hand and saints fans began to realise that we were not going to be over run, in fact we did most of the attacking with the visitors having just a few break aways. In fact we had the ball in the net but it was disallowed for off-side. One early tackle on Chamberlain when he was running at full speed deserved a yellow card but the ref only gave a lecture.
I found it difficult to understand why we were so narrow on the left as Chamberlain seemed reluctant to get forward, but what ever the tactics we were looking the more likely to score so they were working. Our passing was crisp and there was no long hoof, we were taking them on at their own game. I enjoyed this first half, some of the United play was hurried and Fabio Da Silva out on their left looked very poor and there were looks of disgust from his team mates as he lost possession or misplaced passes. In fact the visitors were getting their radar wrong a lot and were jeered by saints fans as the sent passes astray. Fergie came to the touch line to remonstrate with his team and to try to get them organised. It goes without saying that Paul Scholes was giving a masterly display in midfield though, what a player!

Just as I was hoping the ref would blow for half time so that the 0-0 scoreline would flash around the football world my joy knew no bounds as on the 45 th minute minute Chaplow got forward on the right and headed for goal and unleashed a shot that had the saints fans on their feet. We were 1-0 up, hard luck on all those who went out early to queue for their half time cuppa or a wee.

It was no more than we deserved.

United came out early for the second half, obviously Fergie had the hair dryer out. They made one change bringing on Wes Brown at right back. I thought it unusual that he never waited for the fourth official to check his boots etc and for him to come on once the teams came out. He just went on to the pitch with the team as if he had been part of the side in the first half. I am sure Sir Alex had sorted it with the ref during his half time chat!

The visitors took the initiative in this second half, but saints gradually got back in the game although we did not look to have any bite up front. However, as the half wore on I did keep looking up at he clock wondering when Sir Alex would release his big guns. As the clock showed about 30 minutes to go Giggs was introduced along with Nani - two world class players. It did the trick. Giggs went in to midfield alongside Scholes and so began a master class on how to take control of a game that was getting away. It was not long before Giggs played a superb pass and Micheal Owen delivered the final touch. 1-1. Dickson came on for saints in place of Guly to try to stem the flow from midfield but he was soon instrumental in allowing United a second goal. Nani was thorn in our side over on the left, N'guession had come on for the hard working Barnard, the new man went up alongside Lambert. No spark from either him or Lambert, Chaplow was looking drained and Gobern came on for the last 10 minutes.

There was no further score and as the final whistle went there was disappointment but no need for recriminations. Saints had played a full part in which i suspect was an entertaining game in front on millions watching on TV.

I thought Butterfield and Harding were our best outlet going forward, both put in a hard shift getting down the wings. Scneiderlin showed his class, and Chaplow was full of running but tired in the second half. Fonte was immense at the back. Guly tried hard but this was just not his day, Chamberlain did the job he was given to do well but i think he is more effective marauding down the right wing. Lambert was disappointing apart from some free kicks in the first half. I know N'guessan only had 10 minutes but his first touch was awful and he looked a little lost at this level. Give him time maybe, i will change my mind.

But well done saints . Sadly we did not have the impact subs today when we run out of steam, United did. That was the big difference.

That is how is how i saw it anyway. Might look different on the tele when i watch tomorrow though. P.S Sorry for typos, i am a bit tired after a long exciting day so no editing from me.


Manchester United

Saturday, 29 January 2011
Ref: Atkinson

24 Bialkowski
03 Harding
06 Fonte
12 Butterfield - yellow card
19 Seaborne
04 Schneiderlin
11 Guly (N'Guessan 79)
26 Oxlade-Chamberlain
30 Chaplow (Gobern 84)
07 Lambert
09 Barnard (Dickson 73)

01 Davis
02 Richardson
05 Dickson
17 Martin
27 Gobern
29 Doble
32 N'Guessan

Man Utd
34 Lindegaard
12 Smalling
20 Fabio Da Silva (Brown 46)
22 O'Shea
23 Evans
08 Anderson (Nani 58)
18 Scholes
28 Gibson (Giggs 58)
07 Owen
14 Hernandez
26 Obertan

29 Kuszczak
06 Brown
11 Giggs
17 Nani
09 Berbatov
10 Rooney
33 Tiago Bebe